Diverse space weathering effects on asteroid surfaces as inferred via laser irradiation of meteorites

1,10P. Zhang (张鹏飞) et al. (>10)
Astronomy & Astrophysics 659, A78 Link to Article [DOI https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/202142590]
1State Key Laboratory of Lunar and Planetary Sciences, Macau University of Science and Technology, Macau, PR China<
10CNSA Macau Center for Space Exploration and Science, Macau, PR China
Reproduced with permission (C)ESO

Context. Space weathering (SW) is crucial to improve the understanding of the evolution of optical characteristics on airless bodies. The classical view based on research of the Moon suggests that SW decreases albedo (darkening) and steepens spectral slope (reddening) in visible to near-infrared (VIS-NIR) wavelengths, producing nanophase iron (npFe0). However, this conclusion is not perfectly applicable to asteroids.

Aims. In this study, we focus on investigating the space weathering spectral alteration effects (SWSAE) and the causes of spectral alteration on various types of asteroids after long-term continuous micrometeoroid bombardments.

Methods. We used a pulsed laser to irradiate eight meteorites at the same energy, namely, of 28 mJ, in ten shots, including ordinary chondrites (OCs), aubrite (Aub), enstatite chondrites (ECs), CO, CV, and CM carbonaceous chondrites. Then we measured and compared the virgin and irradiated VIS-NIR reflectance spectra of these meteorites. We further surveyed the causes of spectral alteration through a scanning electron microscope and transmission electron microscope.

Results. Three different SWSAE are shown: (1) darkening and reddening on OCs, Aub, CO, and CV chondrites; (2) brightening and reddening on ECs; (3) brightening and bluing on CM chondrite. After irradiation, npFe0 and nanophase iron-nickel particles were respectively found in CV and CO chondrites; thick amorphous layers without any nanophase particles were found in Aub; melting and sputtering of metal were observed in ECs; a great deal of vesicles or bubbles without any nanophase particles were found in CM chondrite.

Conclusions. The long-term SW via micrometeoroid bombardments can spectrally remodel asteroid surfaces in different ways: darken and redden anhydrous silicate asteroids (e.g., S-, E-, and K-types); brighten and redden metal-rich M-type objects. The SWSAE of volatiles-rich carbonaceous asteroids (e.g., Ch-, Cgh-, and D-types) is related to SW degree: darkening and bluing at low degree then brightening and continue bluing as the SW degree increases. The various spectral units on Ryugu, Bennu, and Phobos can be created by the heterogeneity of the degree of SW.

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