The University of Arizona

Depletion of sulfur on the surface of asteroids and the moon

R. M. Killen


Data from the X-ray and -ray spectrometers onboard the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft were used to constrain the chemical and mineralogical composition of asteroid 433 Eros (McCoy et al. 2001). The bulk composition appears to be consistent with that of L to H chondrites (Nittler et al. 2001). However, there appeared to be a marked depletion relative to ordinary chondritic composition in the S/Si ratio (0.014 ± 0.017). We investigate space weathering mechanisms to determine the extent to which sulfur can be preferentially lost from the surface regolith. The two processes considered are impact vaporization by the interplanetary meteoroid population and ion sputtering by the solar wind. Using impact data for Al projectiles onto enstatite, we find that the vaporization rate for troilite (FeS) is nine times as fast as that for the bulk of the regolith. If 20% of the iron is in the form of troilite, then the net vaporization rate, normalized to bulk composition, is 2.8 times faster for sulfur than for iron. Sputtering is equally efficient at removing sulfur as impact vaporization.


Reflectance spectra;Impact vaporization;Moon;hydrated minerals;Asteroids

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