Modeling Orbital Gamma-Ray Spectroscopy Experiments at Carbonaceous AsteroidsOPEN ACCESS 

Lucy F. Lim, Richard D. Starr, Larry G. Evans, Ann M. Parsons, Michael E. Zolensky, William V. Boynton

Accepted to Meteoritics and Planetary Science, September 2016


“To evaluate the feasibility of measuring differences in bulk composition among carbonaceous meteorite parent bodies from an asteroid or comet orbiter, we present the results of a performance simulation of an orbital gamma-ray spectroscopy (“GRS”) experiment in a Dawn-like orbit around spherical model asteroids with a range of carbonaceous compositions. The orbital altitude was held equal to the asteroid radius for 4.5 months. Both the asteroid gamma-ray spectrum and the spacecraft background flux were calculated using the MCNPX Monte-Carlo code. GRS is sensitive to depths below the optical surface (to ~20–50 cm depth depending on material density). This technique can therefore measure underlying compositions beneath a sulfur-depleted (e.g., Nittler et al. 2001) or desiccated surface layer. We find that 3\sigma\ uncertainties of under 1 wt% are achievable for H, C, O, Si, S, Fe, and Cl for five carbonaceous meteorite compositions using the heritage Mars Odyssey GRS design in a spacecraft- deck-mounted configuration at the Odyssey end-of-mission energy resolution, FWHM = 5.7 keV at 1332 keV. The calculated compositional uncertainties are smaller than the compositional differences between carbonaceous chondrite subclasses. “