Interplanetary Dust Particles as Samples of Icy Asteroids

P. Vernazza, M. Marsset, P. Beck, R. P. Binzel, M. Birlan, R. Brunetto, F. E. Demeo, Z. Djouadi, C. Dumas, S. Merouane, O. Mousis, and B. Zanda

The Astrophysical Journal Letters Volume 806 Number 2

ApJ 806 204. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/806/2/204
Received 24 März 2015, accepted for publication 13 Mai 2015. Published 18 Juni 2015.


Meteorites have long been considered as reflections of the compositional diversity of main belt asteroids and consequently they have been used to decipher their origin, formation, and evolution. However, while some meteorites are known to sample the surfaces of metallic, rocky and hydrated asteroids (about one-third of the mass of the belt), the low-density icy asteroids (C-, P-, and D-types), representing the rest of the main belt, appear to be unsampled in our meteorite collections. Here we provide conclusive evidence that the surface compositions of these icy bodies are compatible with those of the most common extraterrestrial materials (by mass), namely anhydrous interplanetary dust particles (IDPs). Given that these particles are quite different from known meteorites, it follows that the composition of the asteroid belt consists largely of more friable material not well represented by the cohesive meteorites in our collections. In the light of our current understanding of the early dynamical evolution of the solar system, meteorites likely sample bodies formed in the inner region of the solar system (0.5–4 AU) whereas chondritic porous IDPs sample bodies that formed in the outer region (>5 AU).