Near-ultraviolet bluing after space weathering of silicates and meteorites

Near-ultraviolet bluing after space weathering of silicates and meteorites

Z. Kanuchova, R. Brunetto, D. Fulvio, G. Strazzulla


Asteroid surface space weathering has been investigated both observationally and experimentally, mostly focusing on the effects on the visible–near infrared (VNIR, 0.4–2.5 μm) spectral range. Here we present laboratory near-ultraviolet (NUV, 200–400 nm) reflectance spectra of ion irradiated (30–400 keV) silicates and meteorites as a simulation of solar wind ion irradiation. These results show that the induced alteration can reproduce the spread observed in the VNIR vs. NUV slope diagram for S-type asteroids. In particular, the well-known spectral reddening effect induced in the VNIR range is accompanied by a less known but stronger bluing effect at NUV wavelengths. Such trend was previously identified by Hendrix and Vilas (Hendrix, A.R., Vilas, F. [2006]. Astron. J., 132, 1396–1404) but only based on the comparison between observations and laboratory spectra of lunar materials. We attribute the NUV bluing, analogously to the VNIR reddening, to the formation of iron nanoparticles accompanied by structural modifications (amorphization) of surface silicates. We expect the evidence of weathering processes in the NUV part of spectra before these effects become observable at longer wavelengths, thus searching for the space weathering effects in the NUV range would allow establishing the extent of space weathering for very young asteroidal families.

It will be important to include in future studies the NUV range both in the observations of specific classes of objects (e.g., the Vestoids) and in the laboratory spectra of meteorites and terrestrial analogues before and after space weather processing.