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Valentine's Day - is it a romantic day or one invented by greeting card companies and sellers of luxury goods? It certainly isn't an astronomical holiday, but whatever your view of the day, you can enjoy this selection of cosmic valentines.
*NEAR Shoemaker and asteroid Eros*
The Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) was launched in 1996. It was designed to study numerous aspects of the asteroid Eros, not only to understand asteroids, but also to further our knowledge of the early Solar System. After planetary scientist Eugene Shoemaker was killed in a car accident in 1997, the probe was renamed by adding “Shoemaker” to its name.
Shoemaker specialized in the study of asteroids and of impact craters. He was active in the training of American astronauts and had been a possible candidate for the Apollo program until disqualified on health grounds. His name is known to the general public for the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 which collided with Jupiter in 1994. His co-discoverers were his wife Carolyn, who has discovered more comets than anyone else alive, and prolific comet-hunter and writer David Levy.
As mentioned in this week's article, on February 14, 2000 NEAR Shoemaker went into orbit around Eros. On February 12, 2001 the probe landed on Eros.
*The Sky Tonight*
The Hubble Site has a video each month to tell you about what's interesting in the sky. Click here to find about about the February night sky: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naPwX-aaa_8
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