Spectral Characterization of Phobos Analogues Under Simulated Environmental Conditions
Abstract:The surface of Phobos holds many keys for understanding its formation and evolution as well as the history and dynamics of the Mars-Phobos system. Visible to near infrared (VNIR) observations suggests that Phobos’ surface is compositionally heterogeneous with ‘redder’ and ‘bluer’ units that both appear to be anhydrous in nature. Lunar highland spectra have been identified as spectral analogues for the ‘redder’ and ‘bluer’ units while thermally metamorphosed CI/CM chondrites, lab-heated carbonaceous chondrites and highly space weathered mafic mineral assemblages have been identified as the best analogues for the ‘bluer’ surface units. Additionally, thermal infrared emissivity spectra indicate that if Phobos’ surface is optically mature it may be rich in feldspar, which is consistent with VNIR observations of Phobos’ surface being spectrally similar to lunar highland spectra.
While remote observations provide key insights into the composition and evolution of planetary surfaces, a fundamentally important component to any remote compositional analysis of planetary surfaces is laboratory measurements of well-characterized samples measured under the appropriate environmental conditions. The vacuum environment of airless bodies creates a steep thermal gradient in the upper hundreds of microns of regolith. Lab studies of particulate rocks and minerals as well as selected lunar soils under vacuum and lunar-like conditions have identified significant effects of this thermal gradient on thermal infrared (TIR) spectral measurements. However recent lab measurements of carbonaceous chondrites demonstrated that simulated asteroid conditions do not affect the resulting emissivity spectra to the degree observed in lunar soils and is highly dependent on composition. Such lab studies demonstrate the high sensitivity of TIR emissivity spectra to environmental conditions under which they are measured and indicate that the near surface environment of all airless bodies do not spectrally behave in similar ways. An initial set of TIR emissivity measurements of Phobos analogue materials will be made in the Simulated Lunar Environment chamber at the University of Oxford. These lab measurements will be characterized in an effort better understand how to interpret current and future TIR observations of Phobos.