Preliminary Broadband Measurements of Dielectric Permittivity of Planetary Regolith Analog Materials Using a Coaxial Airline

Monday, 15 December 2014
Alexandre Boivin1, Chun-An Tsai2, Rebecca R Ghent1 and Michael G Daly3, (1)University of Toronto, Earth Sciences, Toronto, ON, Canada, (2)University of Toronto, Physics, Toronto, ON, Canada, (3)York University, Toronto, ON, Canada
When considering radar observations of airless bodies containing regolith, the radar backscatter coefficient is dependent upon the complex dielectric permittivity of the regolith materials. In many current applications of imaging radar data, uncertainty in the dielectric permittivity precludes quantitative estimates of such important parameters as regolith thickness and depth to buried features (e.g., lava flows on the Aristarchus Plateau on the Moon and the flows that surround the Quetzalpetlatl Corona on Venus). For asteroids, radar is an important tool for detecting and characterizing regoliths. Many previous measurements of the real and/or complex parts of the dielectric permittivity have been made, particularly for the Moon (on both Apollo samples and regolith analogues). However, no studies to date have systematically explored the relationship between permittivity and the various mineralogical components such as presence of FeO and TiO2. For lunar materials, the presence of the mineral ilmenite (FeTiO3), which contains equal portions FeO and TiO2, is thought to be the dominant factor controlling the loss tangent (tanδ, the ratio of the imaginary and real components of the dielectric permittivity). Ilmenite, however, is not the only mineral to contain iron in the lunar soil and our understanding of the effect of iron on the loss tangent is insufficient. Beyond the Moon, little is known about the effects on permittivity of carbonaceous materials. This is particularly relevant for missions to asteroids, such as the OSIRIS-REx mission to (101955) Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid whose regolith composition is largely unknown. Here we present preliminary broadband (300 Mhz to 14 GHz) measurements on materials intended as planetary regolith analogs. Our ultimate goal is to establish a database of the effects of a wide range mineralogical components on dielectric permittivity, in support of the OSIRIS REx mission and ongoing Earth-based radar investigation of the Moon. In addition to facilitating quantitative interpretation of lunar radar data, our results will provide context into which samples returned by OSIRIS REx will fit, and will therefore inform future remote exploration of asteroids.