Credit: NASA/MSFC/Meteoroid Environment Office/Rhiannon Blaauw
Asteroid 433 Eros made a close approach to Earth the morning of January 31st coming within 0.17 AU (15 million miles) of our planet. In this set of images taken that morning, the bright moving dot near the center of the field is the 21 mile long Eros. Somewhere on that tiny point of light rests a United States spacecraft — Near Shoemaker — which touched down on the asteroid’s surface on February 12, 2001 after completing 230 orbits around Eros.
In the animation you will also notice over 20 streaks of light moving almost horizontally across the field of view. What we did not realize at the time of imaging was that Eros was at approximately the declination of geosynchronous communication satellites! These satellites are orbiting some 22,236 miles above the earth in the “Clark belt.” We were able to identify most of the satellites seen and found quite a variety.
Included in the video are Brazilian satellites (Brazilsat B2, Star One C2); American satellites (Galaxy 11); Canadian satellites (Nimiq 4, Anik F1); Venezuelan satellites (Venesat-1); weather satellites (GEOS 12); television satellites (DirecTV 1-R); radio satellites (XM 3, Sirius FM); and Internet satellites (WildBlue – 1).