NASA scientists used radar to figure out the shape of Eros, an asteroid named after the Greek god of love.
But it's not a very sexy hunk of rock. Eros is a "rounded trapezoid" - in other words, it looks roughly like a baking potato.Steven Ostro and colleagues at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory used a new approach to studying radar waves that were bounced off Eros in January 1975.
They learned that Eros is nearly 22 miles long, 9 wide and 8 thick. It rotates on its short axis, so it appears to tumble end-over-end every five hours and 16 minutes, laboratory spokesman Jim Doyle said.
Ostro recently outlined his findings during a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. His paper was titled "The Shape of Eros."
Eros was discovered in 1898. It's orbit crosses Mars' orbit. Eros made its closest approach to Earth this century in January 1975 when it was 14 million miles away. A few months later, it was observed through radar at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Goldstone, Calif., facility.