Laser Irradiation of Carbonaceous Chondrite Simulants: Space-weathering Implications for C-complex Asteroids

Andy J. López-Oquendo, Mark Loeffler, David E. Trilling

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Surfaces of carbonaceous asteroids (C-complex) have shown diverse, contrasting spectral variations, which may be related to space weathering. We performed laser irradiation experiments on CI and CM simulant material under vacuum to mimic the spectral alteration induced by micrometeorite impacts. We used in situ ultraviolet-visible and near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy to analyze spectral alterations in response to pulsed laser irradiation, as well as scanning electron microscopy and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy to search for microstructural and compositional changes. Laser irradiation causes an increase in spectral slope (reddening) and a decrease in the albedo (darkening), and these changes are stronger in the ultraviolet-visible region. These spectral changes are likely driven by the excess iron found in the altered surface region although other factors, such as the observed structural changes, may also contribute. Additionally, while the 0.27 μm band appears relatively stable under laser irradiation, a broad feature at 0.6 μm rapidly disappears with laser irradiation, suggesting that space weathering may inhibit the detection of any feature in this spectral region, including the 0.7 μm band, which has typically been used an indicator of hydration. Comparing our laboratory results with optical spectrophotometry observations of C-complex asteroids, we find that the majority of objects are spectrally red and possess colors that are similar to our irradiated material rather than our fresh samples. Furthermore, we also find that “younger” and “older” C-complex families have similar colors, suggesting that the space-weathering process is near equal or faster than the time it takes to refresh the surfaces of these airless bodies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number117
JournalPlanetary Science Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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