Investigating the role of incident ion flux in solar wind space weathering of carbon-rich asteroidal regolith via H+and He+irradiation of the Murchison meteorite

D.L. Laczniak, M.S. Thompson, R. Christoffersen, C.A. Dukes, R.V. Morris, L.P. Keller

In Press, Journal Pre-proof, Available online 23 November 2023


“We present results from a set of low and high flux 1 keV/amu H+ and He+ irradiation experiments performed on slabs of the Murchison CM2 carbonaceous chondrite. The low flux conditions for H+ and He+ irradiation were ~ 1–1.5 orders of magnitude lower than the high flux conditions, and each experiment was irradiated to a total fluence between ~3 × 1016 to ~6 × 1016 ions/cm2. Irradiation-induced changes in the surface chemistry and optical properties of the Murchison samples were evaluated using in situ X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and visible and near-infrared spectroscopy (VNIR). We characterized the microstructure and composition of ion damaged rims in focused ion beam (FIB) cross-sections extracted from olivine and matrix material in each irradiated Murchison slab using transmission electron microscopy (TEM). XPS results suggest that both low flux and high flux H+ and He+ irradiation cause minor sputtering of surface carbon as well as a reduction in the valence state of iron, from Fe3+ to Fe2+. Slope bluing is observed in VNIR spectra of the irradiated samples which may reflect carbonization and dehydrogenation of organic species and contrasts with reddening trends associated with npFe0 formation. Although we do not observe a strong flux-dependence on the crystallinity of ion-damaged olivine, TEM analyses reveal a variety of microstructures in all olivine FIB-sections, suggesting that crystallographic orientation affects amorphization efficiency. Analyses of matrix FIB-sections indicate that phyllosilicate alteration is mainly driven by He+ irradiation, where the higher incident flux leads to greater amorphization and the formation of more distinct ion-damaged layers, similar to smooth layers in returned Ryugu particles. TEM results also provide some evidence that higher ion flux leads to greater vesiculation, with He+ irradiation being more efficient at vesiculation than H+ irradiation, and that higher ion flux may promote the segregation of Mg and Si into laterally extensive lenses and layers in olivine samples. We discuss the implications of these findings for constraining the role that ion flux plays in the development of space weathering characteristics in silicate phases present in carbonaceous asteroidal regoliths. These results will be important for understanding the complexity of this process and how it operates on carbon-rich airless bodies like asteroids Bennu and Ryugu.”