Aqueous Alteration on Asteroids: Linking the Mineralogy and Spectroscopy of CM and CI Chondrites

M.M. McAdam, J.M. Sunshine, K.T. Howard, T.M. McCoy

DOI: 10.1016/j.icarus.2014.09.041



CM/CI meteorites range in degree of aqueous alteration suggesting differences in initially accreted materials including water ice and possible spatial heterogeneities within their parent bodies. As alteration progresses, the total abundance and magnesium content of phyllosilicates increases. In this paper we present the results of a coordinated spectral-mineralogical study of a well-characterized suite of CM/CI meteorites that range from 60-90% alteration. By acquiring spectra the same meteorite powders as and and Bland et al (2004), we are able for the first time to directly correlate mineralogy with features in reflectance spectra. At visible/near-infrared wavelength, the presence of a 0.7-μm charge transfer band is indicative of aqueous alteration. However, not all altered CM/CI meteorites exhibit this feature; thus the lack of a 0.7 μm absorption band in asteroids does not necessarily signify a lack of aqueous alteration. Furthermore, the position and depth of 0.7-μm charge transfer band shows no correlation with the mineralogical changes associated with aqueous alteration. Similarly, the near-infrared slope, which is not directly related to the mineralogic progression associated with increasing alteration, is not unambiguously related to degree of alteration in the CM/CI meteorites studied. However, the mid-infrared reflectance spectra of CM/CI meteorites contain a broad absorption feature in the 10-13-μm region, which is a convolution of vibrational features due to Mg-rich phyllosilicates and unaltered olivine. The overall feature continuously changes with total phyllosilicate abundance from a shorter wavenumber/longer wavelength peak (815 cm-1, 12.3-μm) for less altered meteorites to a longer wavenumber/shorter wavelength (875 cm-1, 11.4-μm) peak in the highly altered meteorites, with roughly equal spectral contributions producing a doublet in intermediately altered meteorites, Using the results from the mid-infrared analyses of meteorite spectra, it is possible to estimate the degree of alteration on dark primitive asteroids. We find asteroid (24) Themis to have a 1000-700 cm-1 (10-13-μm) peak at longer wavelengths suggesting Themis has a complex surface mineralogy with approximately 70 vol. % phyllosilicates and 25 vol. % anhydrous silicates