Salt grains in hypervelocity impacts in the laboratory: Methods to sample plumes from the ice worlds Enceladus and Europa

1C. R. Fisher,1M. C. Price,1M. J. Burchell
Meteoritics & Planetary Science (in Press) Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1111/maps.13729]
1Centre for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, School of Physical Sciences, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NH UK
Published ba arrangement with John Wiley & Sons

The plumes naturally erupting from the icy satellite Enceladus were sampled by the Cassini spacecraft in high-speed fly-bys, which gave evidence of salt. This raises the question of how salt behaves under high-speed impact, and how it can best be sampled in future missions to such plumes. We present the results of 35 impacts onto aluminum targets by a variety of salts (NaCl, NaHCO3, MgSO4, and MgSO4·7H2O) at speeds from 0.26 to 7.3 km s−1. Using SEM-EDX, identifiable projectile residue was found in craters at all speeds. It was possible to distinguish NaCl and NaHCO3 from each other, and from the magnesium sulfates, but not to separate the hydrous from anhydrous magnesium sulfates. Raman spectroscopy on the magnesium sulfates and NaHCO3 residues failed to find a signal at low impact speeds (<0.5 km s−1) where there was insufficient projectile material deposited at the impact sites. At intermediate speeds (0.5 to 2–3 km s−1), identifiable Raman spectra were found in the impact craters, but not at higher impact speeds, indicating a loss of structure during the high speed impacts. Thus, intact capture of identifiable salt residues on solid metal surfaces requires impact speeds between 0.75 and 2 km s−1.

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