Specific Heat Capacity Measurements of Selected Meteorites for Planetary Surface Temperature Modeling

Sylvain Piqueux, Tuan H. Vu, Jonathan Bapst, Laurence A.J. Garvie, Mathieu Choukroun, Christopher S. Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Specific heat capacity Cp(T) is an intrinsic regolith property controlling planetary surface temperatures along with the albedo, density, and thermal conductivity. Cp(T) depends on material composition and temperature. Generally, modelers assume a fixed specific heat capacity value, or a standard temperature dependence derived from lunar basalts, mainly because of limited composition-specific data at low temperatures relevant to planetary surfaces. In addition, Cp(T) only appears to vary by a small factor across various materials, in contrast with the bulk regolith thermal conductivity, which ranges over ∼3–4 orders of magnitude as a function of the regolith physical state (grain size, cementation, sintering, etc.). For these reasons, the impact of the basaltic assumption on modeled surface temperature is often considered unimportant although this assumption is not particularly well constrained. In this paper, we present specific heat capacity measurements and parameterizations from ∼90 to ∼290 K of 28 meteorites including those possibly originating from Mars and Vesta, and covering a wide range of planetary surface compositions. Planetary surface temperatures calculated using composition-specific Cp(T) are within (Formula presented.) 2 K of model runs assuming a basaltic composition. This (Formula presented.) 2 K range approaches or exceeds typical instrumental noise or other sources of modeling uncertainties. These results suggest that a basaltic assumption for Cp(T) is generally adequate for the thermal characterization of a wide range of planetary surfaces, but possibly inadequate when looking at leveraging subtle trends to constrain subsurface layering, roughness, or seasonal/diurnal volatile transfer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021JE007003
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • meteorites
  • specific heat capacity
  • temperature
  • thermal inertia
  • thermophysics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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