Exploring Vesta's Surface Roughness and Dielectric Properties Using VIR Spectrometer and Bistatic Radar Observations by the Dawn Mission

Friday, 19 December 2014
Elizabeth M Palmer, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, United States, Essam Heggy, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States, Maria Teresa Capria, IAPS-INAF, Rome, Italy, Federico Tosi, INAF, Rome, Italy, Wlodek W Kofman, University Joseph Fourier Grenoble, Grenboble, France and Christopher T Russell, Univ California, Los Angeles, CA, United States
Multiple lines of evidence from NASA’s Dawn mission suggest transient volatile presence at the surface of asteroid Vesta. Radar remote sensing is a useful technique for the investigation of volatile content at the surface and shallow subsurface, but requires the use of accurate dielectric and topographic models in order to deconvolve the effect of surface roughness from the total observed radar backscatter.

Toward this end, we construct a dielectric model for the dry, volatile-poor case of Vesta’s surface to represent average surface conditions, and to assess the expected average range of dielectric properties due to known variations in mineralogy, temperature, and density as inferred from Dawn VIR data. We employ dielectric studies of lunar samples to serve as a suitable analog to the Vestan regolith, and in the case of 10-wavelength penetration depth of X-band frequency radar observations, our model yields ε' from 2.5 to 2.6 from the night to dayside of Vesta, and tan δ from 0.011 to 0.014. Our estimation of ε' corresponds to specular surface reflectivity of ~0.05.

In addition to modeling, we have also conducted an opportunistic bistatic radar (BSR) experiment at Vesta using the communications antennas aboard Dawn and on Earth. In this configuration, Dawn transmits a continuous radar signal toward the Earth while orbiting Vesta. As the Dawn spacecraft passes behind Vesta (entering an occultation), the line of sight between Dawn and Earth intersects Vesta’s surface, resulting in a reflection of radar waves from the surface and shallow subsurface, which are then received on Earth for analysis.

The geometry of the Dawn BSR experiment results in high incidence angles on Vesta’s surface, and leads to a differential Doppler shift of only a few 10s of Hz between the direct signal and the surface echo. As a consequence, this introduces ambiguity in the measurement of bandwidth and peak power of each surface echo. We report our interpretations of each surface echo in the context of relative surface roughness and relative surface reflectivity, and present suggestions for conducting future BSR experiments at small bodies.