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Planetary Science Journal


The surfaces of airless bodies such as lunar and S-type asteroids typically become spectrally redder in visible to near-infrared reflectance with longer exposures to space weathering. However, some carbonaceous asteroids instead become spectrally bluer. Space weathering experiments on carbonaceous meteorites have provided some clues as to the space weathering products that could produce spectral bluing. We applied these experimental results to our Hapke radiative transfer model, with which we modeled spectral data from the OSIRIS-REx mission in order to determine whether these space weathering products—specifically, nanophase and microphase metallic iron, troilite, and magnetite—could explain the globally blue spectrum of the carbonaceous asteroid (101955) Bennu. The model suggests that the surface of Bennu has microphase iron, nanophase magnetite, and nanophase and microphase troilite. Considering previous space weathering experiments together with our spectral modeling of Bennu, we posit that the presence of nanophase magnetite is what causes a carbonaceous asteroid to become spectrally bluer with exposure time. Nanophase magnetite can form on asteroids that have Fe-bearing hydrated minerals (phyllosilicates). On anhydrous carbonaceous asteroids, nanophase iron forms instead of magnetite, leading to spectral reddening. We therefore predict that samples returned by the OSIRIS-REx mission from Bennu will have more nanophase magnetite than nanophase iron with nanophase and microphase sulfides, whereas samples returned by the Hayabusa2 mission from the carbonaceous asteroid (162173) Ryugu, which is spectrally red, will contain nanophase and microphase sulfides as well as more nanophase iron than nanophase magnetite.


© 2021. The Author(s). Published by the American Astronomical Society. Original content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.