Survival of the impactor during hypervelocity collisions I: An analogue for low porosity targets

C. Avdellidou, M.C. Price, M. Delbo, P. Ioannidis, M.J. Cole

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“Recent observations of asteroidal surfaces indicate the presence of materials that do not match the bulk lithology of the body. A possible explanation for the presence of these exogenous materials is that they are products of inter-asteroid impacts in the Main Belt, and thus interest has increased in understanding the fate of the projectile during hypervelocity impacts. In order to gain insight into the fate of impactor we have carried out a laboratory programme, covering the velocity range of 0.38 – 3.50 km/s, devoted to measuring the survivability, fragmentation and final state of the impactor. Forsterite olivine and synthetic basalt projectiles were fired onto low porosity (<10%) pure water-ice targets using the University of Kent's Light Gas Gun (LGG). We developed a novel method to identify impactor fragments which were found in ejecta and implanted into the target. We applied astronomical photometry techniques, using the SOURCE EXTRACTOR software, to automatically measure the dimensions of thousands of fragments. This procedure enabled us to estimate the implanted mass on the target body, which was found to be a few percent of the initial mass of the impactor. We calculated an order of magnitude difference in the energy density of catastrophic disruption, Q*, between peridot and basalt projectiles. However, we found very similar behaviour of the size frequency distributions for the hypervelocity shots (>1 km/s). After each shot, we examined the largest peridot fragments with Raman spectroscopy and no melt or alteration in the final state of the projectile was observed. “