Model for asteroid regolith to guide simulant development

1Philip T.Metzger,2Daniel T.Britt
Icarus (in Press) Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2020.113904]
1Florida Space Institute, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida, USA
2Department of Physics, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida, USA
Copyright Elsevier

When creating asteroid regolith simulant, it is necessary to have a model of asteroid regolith to guide and to evaluate the simulant. We created a model through evaluation and synthesis of the available data sets including (1) the returned sample from Itokawa by the Hayabusa spacecraft, (2) imagery from the Hayabusa and NEAR spacecraft visiting Itokawa and Eros, respectively, (3) thermal infrared observations from asteroids, (4) the texture of meteorite regolith breccias, and (5) observations and modeling of the ejecta clouds from disrupted asteroids. Comparison of the Hayabusa returned sample with other data sets suggest the surficial material in the smooth regions of asteroids is dissimilar to the bulk regolith, probably due to removal of fines by photoionization and solar wind interaction or by preferential migration of mid-sized particles into the smooth terrain. We found deep challenges interpreting and applying the thermal infrared data so we were unable to use those observations in the model. Texture of regolith breccias do not agree with other data sets, suggesting the source regolith on Vesta was coarser than typical asteroid regolith. The observations of disrupted asteroids present a coherent picture of asteroid bulk regolith in collisional equilibrium, unlike lunar regolith, HED textures, and the Itokawa returned sample. The model we adopt consists of power laws for the bulk regolith in unspecified terrain (differential power index −3.5, representing equilibrium), and the surficial regolith in smooth terrain (differential power index −2.5, representing disequilibrium). Available data do not provide adequate constraints on maximum and minimum particle sizes for these power laws, so the model treats them as user-selectable parameters for the simulant.

 

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