Thermal emission measurements of ordinary chondrite mineral analogs in a simulated asteroid environment: 2. Representative mineral mixtures

Michael S. Bramble, Ralph E. Milliken, William R. Patterson

In Press, Journal Pre-proof, Available online 8 December 2020



• The thermal emission of mineral mixtures was analyzed in a simulated asteroid environment.
• The mixtures were bulk mineral analogs to H, L, and LL ordinary chondrite meteorites.
• Linear unmixing was tested on the mixtures at ambient and cold, vacuum conditions.
• The spectral contrast increase for <25 μm samples at cold and vacuum did not add to the unmixing efficacy.
• Distinguishing ordinary chondrite parent body composition may be difficult with only emissivity data.”

“We investigate a suite of synthetic mineral mixtures designed to act as bulk mineralogical analogs to H, L, and LL ordinary chondrite meteorites in order to probe how the thermal emission characteristics of such materials change between ambient and simulated asteroid environmental conditions. Due to the parent body link with certain S-type asteroids, studying these analog mixtures in an environment that is relevant to actual asteroid surfaces advances our understanding of the thermal emission properties of one of the most common regolith types among the main-belt and near-Earth asteroid populations. The observed changes in spectral emissivity features due to cold, vacuum conditions are not as large as previously observed for single mineral (silicate) samples. We interpret this difference to be the result of metallic and opaque components weakening near-surface thermal gradients in the mixtures. As such, we predict that near-surface thermal gradients on ordinary chondrite parent bodies (e.g., S-type asteroids) are likely much weaker than would be inferred from cold, vacuum measurements of individual mineral components. We tested whether the increased spectral contrast observed in fine-grained (<25 μm) samples measured in a cold, vacuum environment increases the efficacy of least squares linear unmixing methods. It is found that the accuracy of such models does not improve relative to measurements made under ambient conditions, thus linear unmixing models are not expected to yield accurate estimates of the modal mineralogy of airless planetary surfaces if they are dominated by fine-grained regolith. Mixtures with coarse particle sizes (125–250 μm) that were modeled using the coarse particle size endmembers yielded results that were largely independent of the environmental conditions, but with larger errors in spectral fits for samples measured in a simulated asteroid environment. At simulated asteroid environmental conditions, the bulk silicate composition and metal content play a more important role in determining the thermal state and brightness temperature of the sample than at ambient conditions. Modest changes in metal content (10–25 wt%) lead to large differences in the brightness temperature of a sample. Under simulated asteroid conditions, an ~10 K increase in maximum brightness temperature that tracks with increased iron content is observed at fine particle sizes (<25 μm) between each of the analog ordinary chondrite groups. Based on these results, it may be difficult to distinguish H, L, and LL compositions of suspected ordinary chondrite parent bodies using only Earth- or space-based thermal emission spectra. This is inferred from the spectral similarity of the analog mixtures and the absence of significant variation in spectral emissivity associated with reported differences in bulk metal content for ordinary chondrites.”