Nanomorphology of Itokawa regolith particles:Application to space-weathering processes affecting the Itokawa asteroid

Toru Matsumoto, Akira Tsuchiama, Kentaro Uesugi, Tsukasa Nakano, Masayuki Uesugi, Junya Matsuno, Takashi Nagano, Akira Shimada, Akihisa Takeuchi, Yoshio Suzuki, Tomoki Nakamura, Michihiko Nakamura, Arnold Gucsik, Keita Nagaki, Tatsuhiro Sakaiya, Tadashi Kondo

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
In Press, Accepted Manuscript, Available online 13 May 2016


“The morphological properties of 26 regolith particles from asteroid Itokawa were observed using scanning electron microscopes in combination with an investigation of their three-dimensional shapes obtained through X-ray microtomography. Surface observations of a cross section of the LL5 chondrite, and of crystals of olivine and pyroxene, were also performed for comparison. Some Itokawa particles have surfaces corresponding to walls of microdruses in the LL chondrite, where concentric polygonal steps develop and euhedral or subhedral grains exist. These formed through vapor growth owing to thermal annealing, which might have been caused by thermal metamorphism or shock-induced heating in Itokawa’s parent body. Most of the Itokawa particles have more or less fractured surfaces, indicating that they were formed by disaggregation, probably caused by impacts. Itokawa particles with angular and rounded edges observed in computed tomography images are associated with surfaces exhibiting clear and faint structures, respectively. These surfaces can be interpreted by invoking different degrees of abrasion after regolith formation. A possible mechanism for the abrasion process is grain migration caused by impact-driven seismic waves. Space-weathered rims with blisters are distributed heterogeneously across the Itokawa regolith particles. This heterogeneous distribution can be explained by particle motion and fracturing, combined with solar-wind irradiation of the particle surfaces. The regolith activity—including grain motion, fracturing, and abrasion—might effectively act as refreshing process of Itokawa particles against space-weathered rim formation. The space-weathering processes affecting Itokawa would have developed simultaneously with space-weathered rim formation and regolith particle refreshment.”