From Earth to Neptune: The Mineralogical Properties of Small Planetary Satellites and Co-orbital Objects
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation studies the reflectance properties of a variety of small body populations throughout the solar system. It represents the first spectroscopic observations of the majority of targets, including the first spectra of an Earth quasi-satellite, the irregular satellites of Uranus, and Neptune Trojans. These topics are united in the methodology of faint object spectroscopy (near the limits of the current generation of large Earth-based telescopes), but also in the research questions each population poses. These populations, while less well studied than major groups of asteroids, comets, or trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), provide powerful opportunities to constrain how material has been transported throughout the solar system before they were captured into orbits near to the planets. The study of these objects is therefore similar to investigating a ``fossil record'' of the evolutionary processes that occurred throughout the solar system's history. In particular, I develop comparisons between these poorly understood objects and well-studied samples of meteorites. Generally, I find evidence that irregular satellites in the outer solar system can be modeled using analogies to hydrated carbonaceous chondrite materials, and I observe that a wide variety of physical conditions can play a role in explaining the data I have collected. Despite these ambiguities, I provide evidence that hydrated material may be present in these populations in substantial amounts, and therefore provide direct assessments of their material properties. My study of the Earth quasi-satellite Kamo`oalewa finds that its properties are unique amongst near-Earth asteroids or the meteoritic record and is most similar to material collected from the Earth's moon. Synthesizing the results of each individual study shows that targeted spectroscopic studies of faint objects can deliver direct constraints on the origins of a variety of populations and can advance hypotheses beyond coarse, population-wide comparisons.
Degree ProgramGraduate College