Iron content determines how space weathering flux variations affect lunar soils

1James McFadden,1,2IanGarrick-Bethell,2Chae K.Sim,2Sungsoo S.Kim,3DougHemingway
Icarus (in Press) Link to Article []
1Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA
2School of Space Research, Kyung Hee University, Republic of Korea
3Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington, DC, USA
Copyright Elsevier

Previous work has established that the solar wind and micrometeoroids produce spectral changes on airless silicate bodies. However, the relative importance of these two weathering agents, the timescales over which they operate, and how their effects depend on composition have not yet been well determined. To help address these questions we make use of the fact that solar wind and micrometeoroid fluxes vary with latitude on the Moon. Previous work has shown that this latitudinally varying flux leads to systematic latitudinal variations in the spectral properties of lunar soils. Here we find that the way in which a lunar soil’s spectral properties vary with latitude is a function of its iron content, when we consider soils with 14–22 wt% FeO. In particular, a 50% reduction in flux corresponds to a significant increase in reflectance for 14 wt% FeO soils, while the same flux reduction on 21 wt% FeO soils is smaller by a factor of ~5, suggesting that this brightening effect saturates for high FeO soils. We propose that lower iron soils may not approach saturation because grains are destroyed or refreshed before sufficient nano- and micro-phase iron can accumulate on their rims. We compare our results to the spectral variations observed across the Reiner Gamma swirl, which lies on a high‑iron surface, and find it has anomalous brightness compared to our predictions. Swirls in Mare Marginis, which lie on a low iron surface, exhibit brightness differences that suggest reductions in solar wind flux between 20 and 40%. Our inferences suffer from the limited latitudinal extent of the maria and the convolution of micrometeoroid flux and solar wind flux changes with latitude. Superior constraints on how space weathering operates throughout the inner solar system would come from in situ measurements of the solar wind flux at lunar swirls.


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