Hypervelocity impacts as a source of deceiving surface signatures on iron-rich asteroids

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Science Advances  28 Aug 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 8, eaav3971
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav3971


Several arguments point to a larger proportion of metal-rich asteroids than that derived from spectral observations, as remnants of collisional disruptions of differentiated bodies. We show experimentally that this apparent deficit may result from the coating of metallic surfaces by silicate melts produced during impacts of hydrated or dry projectiles at typical asteroid impact speeds. Spectral analysis of steel and iron meteorite targets after impact shows a profoundly modified optical signature. Furthermore, hydrated projectiles leave a 3-μm absorption hydration feature. This feature is thus consistent with a metallic surface and does not require an unusual low-speed impact. Unless systematizing radar measurements, ground-based spectral observations can be deceptive in identifying iron-rich bodies. The NASA Psyche mission rendezvous with Psyche will offer the unique opportunity both to measure the relative abundances of regolith and glassy coated surfaces and to substantially increase our understanding of impact processes and signatures on a metal-rich asteroid.

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