Investigating S-type asteroid surfaces through reflectance spectra of ordinary chondrites

J. Eschrig, L. Bonal, M. Mahlke, B. Carry, P.Beck, J. Gattacceca

Icarus
In Press, Journal Pre-proof, Available online 3 April 2022

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“Highlights

• Reflectance spectroscopy
• Petrography
• Unequilibrated Ordinary Chondrites (UOC)
• Equilibrated Ordinary Chondrites (EOC)
• S-type Asteroids
• Asteroid parent bodies”

“The search for asteroidal parent bodies of chondrites through various techniques is an ongoing endeavor. A link between ordinary chondrites (OCs) and S-type asteroids has previously been established by the sample return of the Hayabusa space mission. OCs are the class with the most abundant samples in our meteorite collection. We present an in-depth study of the reflectance spectra of 39 equilibrated and 41 unequilibrated ordinary chondrites (EOCs and UOCs). We demonstrate that consistent measuring conditions are vital for the direct comparison of spectral features between chondrites, otherwise hampering any conclusions. We include a comparison with a total of 466 S-type asteroid reflectance spectra from various databases. We analyze (i) if a difference between EOCs and UOCs as well as between H, L and LL can be seen, (ii) if it is possible to identify unequilibrated and equilibrated S-type asteroid surfaces and (iii) if we can further constrain the match between OCs and S-type asteroids all based on reflectance spectra.

As a first step, we checked the classification of the 31 Antarctic UOCs analyzed in the present work, using petrography and magnetic measurements, and evidenced that 74% of them were misclassified. Reflectance spectra were compared between EOCs and UOCs as well as between H, L and LL chondrites using a set of spectral features including band depths and positions, peak reflectance values, spectral slopes and the Ol/(Ol + Px) ratio. UOCs and EOCs reflectance spectra show no clear-cut dichotomy, but a continuum with some EOCs showing stronger absorption bands and peak reflectance values, while others are comparable to UOCs. Moreover, we show by the example of 6 EOCs that their band depths decrease with decreasing grain size. Based on reflectance spectra alone, it is thus highly challenging to objectively identify an unequilibrated from an equilibrated S-type surface. There is no clear distinction of the chemical groups: only LL EOCs of petrographic type >4 can be distinguished from H and L through less deep 2000 nm band depths and 1000 nm band positions at longer wavelengths. No dichotomy of S-type asteroids can be seen based on the Ol/(Ol + Px) ratio. Their average Ol/(Ol + Px) ratio matches EOCs better than UOCs. A principal component analysis (PCA) was performed illustrating that both the unknown degree of space weathering and the unknown regolith grain size on asteroid surfaces hinder the distinction between equilibrated and unequilibrated surfaces. Lastly, an anti-correlation between the diameter of the asteroids and their 1000 nm band depth is found indicating that larger sized S-type asteroids show finer grained surfaces.”