Meteoritics & Planetary Science, Volume 43, Number 6 (2008)
ABOUT THIS COLLECTION
Meteoritics & Planetary Science is an international monthly journal of the Meteoritical Society—a scholarly organization promoting research and education in planetary science. Topics include the origin and history of the solar system, planets and natural satellites, interplanetary dust and interstellar medium, lunar samples, meteors and meteorites, asteroids, comets, craters, and tektites.
Meteoritics & Planetary Science was first published in 1935 under the title Contributions of the Society for Research on Meteorites. In 1947, the publication became known as Contributions of the Meteoritical Society and continued through 1951. From 1953 to 1995, the publication was known as Meteoritics, and in 1996, the journal's name was changed to Meteoritics & Planetary Science or MAPS. The journal was not published in 1952 and from 1957 to 1964.
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Finite difference time domain simulation of radar wave propagation through comet nuclei dielectric modelsThe 90 MHz radar-wave experiment, Comet Nucleus Sounding Experiment by Radiowave Transmission (CONSERT), on board the Rosetta mission (ESA, 2004) is expected to probe the nucleus of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P/C-G) to reveal information on its physical properties, chemical composition, and internal structure. This investigation assesses the potential to recognize lithological structure in the comet nucleus with a radar experiment such as CONSERT. Radar simulations at 90 MHz were performed with a finite difference time domain (FDTD) method. The amplitude and losses of the transmitted and reflected electric field components of an incident radar pulse were evaluated as a function of time. Seven different dielectric models of sections of a hypothetical comet nucleus were used, representative of existing theories of comet nuclei. Values of dielectric constant assigned to these models are based on mixing laws for a porous mixture of ice and meteoritic dust, employing laboratory measured values of relative permittivity for mainly chondritic meteorites. Our results confirm that structural differences such as layers or inclusions are discernable from transmitted and reflected radar signals at 90 MHz, the central frequency of the CONSERT instrument. Such simulations help to constrain the ambiguities that might exist in future radar data associated with the nature of the comet nuclei, whether conglomerate or layered in nature.
Structure and density of cometary nucleiUnderstanding the nature of the cometary nucleus remains one of the major problems in solar system science. Whipples (1950) icy conglomerate model has been very successful at explaining a range of cometary phenomena, including the source of cometary activity and the nongravitational orbital motion of the nuclei. However, the internal structure of the nuclei is still largely unknown. We review herein the evidence for cometary nuclei as fluffy aggregates or primordial rubble piles, as first proposed by Donn et al. (1985) and Weissman (1986). These models assume that cometary nuclei are weakly bonded aggregations of smaller, icy- onglomerate planetesimals, possibly held together only by self-gravity. Evidence for this model comes from studies of the accretion and subsequent evolution of material in the solar nebula, from observations of disrupted comets, and in particular comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, from measurements of the ensemble rotational properties of observed cometary nuclei, and from recent spacecraft missions to comets. Although the evidence for rubble pile nuclei is growing, the eventual answer to this question will likely not come until we can place a spacecraft in orbit around a cometary nucleus and study it in detail over many months to years. ESAs Rosetta mission, now en route to comet 67P/Churyumov- Gerasimenko, will provide that opportunity.
Characterizing and navigating small bodies with imaging dataRecent advances in the characterization of small body surfaces with stereophotoclinometry are discussed. The principal data output is an ensemble of landmark maps (L-maps), high-resolution topography/albedo maps of varying resolution that tile the surface of the body. Because they can have a resolution comparable to the best images, and can be located on a global reference frame to high accuracy, L-maps provide a significant improvement in discriminatory power for studies of small bodies, ranging from regolith processes to interior structure. These techniques are now being used to map larger bodies such as the Moon and Mercury. L-maps are combined to produce a standard global topography model (GTM) with about 1.57 million vectors and having a wide variety of applications. They can also be combined to produce high-resolution topography maps that describe local areas with much greater detail than the GTM. When combined with nominal predictions from other data sources and available data from other instruments such as LIDAR or RADAR, solutions for the spacecraft position and camera pointing are the most accurate available. Examples are drawn from studies of Phobos, Eros, and Itokawa, including surface characterization, gravity analysis, spacecraft navigation, and incorporation of LIDAR or RADAR data. This work has important implications for potential future missions such as Deep Interior and the level of navigation and science that can be achieved.
Rotational excitation and damping as probes of interior structures of asteroids and cometsRotational excitation and damping are discussed in the context of inferring structural properties of asteroids and comets. Opportunities for carrying out deterministic experiments are outlined and basic concepts involving space missions are discussed. Spacecraft carrying an impactor or explosives together with an orbiter are suggested as effective probes of the interiors of asteroid and comets. The feasibility of such missions, especially to near-Earth objects (NEOs), is highlighted as NEOs provide an appropriate cost-effective path to explore interiors of asteroids and comets.
Critical crater diameter and asteroid impact seismologyIf impact stress reverberation is the primary gradational process on an asteroid at global scales, then the largest undegraded crater records an asteroids seismological response. The critical crater diameter Dcrit is defined as the smallest crater whose formation disrupts all previous craters globally up to its size; it is solved for by combining relationships for crater growth and for stress attenuation. The computation for Dcrit gives a simple explanation for the curious observation that small asteroids have only modest undegraded craters, in comparison to their size, whereas large asteroids have giant undegraded craters. Dcrit can even exceed the asteroid diameter, in which case all craters are local and the asteroid becomes crowded with giant craters. Dcrit is the most recent crater to have formed on a blank slate; when it is equated to the measured diameter of the largest undegraded crater on known asteroids, peak particle velocities are found to attenuate with the 1.2-1.3 power of distance--less attenuative than strong shocks, and more characteristic of powerful seismic disturbances. This is to be expected, since global degradation can result from seismic (cm s^(-1)) particle velocities on small asteroids. Attenuation, as modeled, appears to be higher on asteroids known to be porous, although these are also bodies for which different crater scaling rules might apply.
A review of penetrometers for subsurface access on comets and asteroidsThe characterization of comet and asteroid interiors will eventually require in situ exploration with drills, penetrators/penetrometers, hypervelocity impactors, excavators or other devices. Because they offer desirable scientific capabilities and relative mechanical simplicity, penetrators and penetrometers, which use only axial force to push beneath the surface, are a good choice for near-term missions. Penetrometers are instruments, generally deployed from a larger vehicle, that measure subsurface mechanical properties and may also contain additional scientific instruments. There are three basic types: "fast" penetrometers are released from above and plunge into the surface. Static and dynamic (collectively referred to as "slow") penetrometers use, respectively, a constant slow penetration speed and periodic hammering impulses. The low gravity environment of asteroids and comets presents a key challenge to instrument deployment and also greatly affects the mechanical properties of surface materials, and in turn penetrometer performance. The Rosetta mission, currently en route to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, will be the next mission to try both fast and slow, dynamic penetrometry, when it arrives in 2014. We present some new concepts of static penetrometers for small body exploration that are adapted to the low gravity environment. The low gravity environment also presents challenges for the testing of penetrometers on Earth and a number of previous solutions are described and new methods suggested. In the next generation of missions to study comets and asteroids, penetrometers could provide important data on their mechanical, seismic, thermal, electromagnetic, and chemical characteristics, as well as sample collection.
Physical properties of meteorites—Applications in space missions to asteroidsBased on reflectance spectroscopy and chemical/mineralogical remote sensing methods, it is generally assumed that asteroids are parent bodies for most meteorites reaching the Earth. However, more detailed observations indicate that differences exist in composition between asteroids and meteorites resulting in difficulties when searching for meteorite-asteroid match. We show that among other physical parameters the magnetic susceptibility of an asteroid can be determined remotely from the magnetic induction by solar wind using an orbiting spacecraft or directly using the AC coil on the lander, or it can be measured in samples returned to the laboratory. The shape corrected value of the true magnetic susceptibility of an asteroid can be compared to those of meteorites in the existing database, allowing closer match between asteroids and meteorites. The database of physical properties contains over 700 samples and was recently enlarged with measurements of meteorites in European museums using mobile laboratory facility.
Numerical simulation of a permittivity probe for measuring the electric properties of planetary regolith and application to the near-surface region of asteroids and cometsWe present a numerical simulation technique for the retrieval of the electric properties relative permittivity and conductivity of planetary, asteroid, and cometary regolith. Our simulation techniques aim at accompanying hardware development and conducting virtual experiments, e.g., to assess the response of arbitrary heterogeneous conductivity and permittivity distributions or to scrutinize possibilities for spatial reconstruction methods using inverse schemes. In a first step, we have developed a finite element simulation code on the basis of unstructured, adaptive triangular grids for arbitrary two-dimensional axisymmetric distributions of conductivity and permittivity. The code is able to take into account the spatial geometry of the probe and allows for possible inductive effects. In previous studies, the non-inductive approach has been used to convert potential and phase data into apparent material properties. By our simulations, we have shown that this approach is valid for the frequency range from 102 Hz to 107 Hz and electric conductivities of 10^(-8) S/m that are typical for the near-surface region of asteroids and comets composed of chondritic materials and/or frozen volatiles such as H2O and CO2 ice. We prove the accuracy of our code to be better than 10%, using mixed types of boundary conditions and present a simulated vertical log through a horizontally stratified subsurface layer as a representative example of a heterogeneous distribution of the electrical properties. Resolution studies for the given electrode separation reveal that the material parameters of layers having thicknesses of less than about half the electrode spread are not reconstructible if only apparent quantities are considered. Therefore, spatial distributions of the complex sensitivity are presented having in mind a future data inversion concept that will permit the multi-dimensional reconstruction of material parameters in heterogeneous environments.
Spacecraft Reconnaissance of Asteroid and Comet InteriorsEditorial: Spacecraft Reconnaissance of Asteroid and Comet Interiors.