Space Weathering on Airless Bodies

1Carle M. Pieters, 2Sarah K. Noble
Journal of Geophysical Research Planets (in Press) Link to Article [DOI: 10.1002/2016JE005128]
1Department of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences, Brown University, Providence, RI
2Planetary Science Division, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC
Published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons

Space weathering refers to alteration that occurs in the space environment with time. Lunar samples, and to some extent meteorites, have provided a benchmark for understanding the processes and products of space weathering. Lunar soils are derived principally from local materials but have accumulated a range of optically active opaque particles (OAOpq) that include nanophase metallic iron on/in rims formed on individual grains (imparting a red slope to visible and near-infrared reflectance) and larger iron particles (which darken across all wavelengths) such as are often found within the interior of recycled grains. Space weathering of other anhydrous silicate bodies, such as Mercury and some asteroids, produce different forms and relative abundance of OAOpq particles depending on the particular environment. If the development of OAOpq particles is minimized (such as at Vesta), contamination by exogenic material and regolith mixing become the dominant space weathering processes. Volatile-rich bodies and those composed of abundant hydrous minerals (dwarf planet Ceres, many dark asteroids, outer solar system satellites) are affected by space weathering processes differently than the silicate bodies of the inner solar system. However, the space weathering products of these bodies are currently poorly understood and the physics and chemistry of space weathering processes in different environments are areas of active research.

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