As I discussed in that presentation, during the century and a quarter that has elapsed since then we have discovered that a rather large population of asteroids exist s in near-Earth space, and in other regions of the solar system as well. The asteroid that would create this paradigm shift was discovered on August 13, , by Gustav Witt at the Berlin Observatory in Germany — on a photograph that he had taken of the asteroid Eunike for astrometric purposes — and independently that same night by Auguste Charlois at Nice Observatory in France. Calculations soon revealed that it is traveling in a small, moderately elongated orbit eccentricity 0. These calculations also revealed that it could approach the Earth moderately closely on occasion, indeed it had passed only 0. It was actually only two months past aphel ion when discovered.
This picture of Eros, the first of an asteroid taken from an orbiting spacecraft, is a mosaic of four images obtained by NASA's NEAR mission immediately after the spacecraft's insertion into orbit. Charlois at Nice, France. Witt's discovery was the accidental byproduct of a two-hour photographic exposure he conducted of a different asteroid: Eunike. Along with Eunike, the image he produced showed a 0. Less than two weeks later, Adolf J. Berberich computed that the object's orbit brought it well inside the orbit of Mars, making it the first-known near-Earth asteroid. Eros is famous as the first asteroid to be orbited by a spacecraft, and as the first one on which a spacecraft landed.
After less than a week in orbit, NEAR has already returned dazzling pictures that have surprised and delighted researchers. This could come about if Eros was once part of a larger body, perhaps a fragment of a planet. This idea fits the general picture that scientists have of asteroids.