Erosion of volatiles by micro-meteoroid bombardment on Ceres, and comparison to the Moon and MercuryOPEN ACCESS 

Petr Pokorný, Erwan Mazarico, Norbert Schorghofer

accepted to PSJ


“(1) Ceres, the largest reservoir of water in the main-belt, was recently visited by the Dawn spacecraft that revealed several areas bearing H2O-ice features. Independent telescopic observations showed a water exosphere of currently unknown origin. We explore the effects of meteoroid impacts on Ceres considering the topography obtained from the Dawn mission using a widely-used micro-meteoroid model and ray-tracing techniques. Meteoroid populations with 0.01−2 mm diameters are considered. We analyze the short-term effects Ceres experiences during its current orbit as well as long-term effects over the entire precession cycle. We find the entire surface is subject to meteoroid bombardment leaving no areas in permanent shadow with respect to meteoroid influx. The equatorial parts of Ceres produce 80% more ejecta than the polar regions due to the large impact velocity of long-period comets. Mass flux, energy flux, and ejecta production vary seasonally by a factor of 3−7 due to the inclined eccentric orbit. Compared to Mercury and the Moon, Ceres experiences significantly smaller effects of micro-meteoroid bombardment, with a total mass flux of 4.5±1.2×10−17 kg m−2 s−1. On average Mercury is subjected to a 50× larger mass flux and generates 700× more ejecta than Ceres, while the lunar mass flux is 10× larger, and the ejecta generation is 30× larger than on Ceres. For these reasons, we find that meteoroid impacts are an unlikely candidate for the production of a water exosphere or significant excavation of surface features. The surface turnover rate from the micro-meteoroid populations considered is estimated to be 1.25 Myr on Ceres.”