Science Seminars

2/26/2015 – Space Weathering on Volatile-Rich Asteroids; Or How Rocks Can Make Glass, Iron, and Life

Speaker: Dan Britt (Univ. of Central Florida)
Date: Wednesday, Feb 26, 2020
Time: 4:00 PM
Location: LSTB A299

Seminar Abstract:

Space weathering refers to the alterations suffered by solid materials when directly exposed (i.e. no atmosphere) to the space environment. The classic example is the weathering of the lunar regolith in which common rock-forming minerals decompose into glassy aggregates with nanophase iron. The lunar nanophase iron produces a characteristic spectral red slope. But how do other airless bodies weather? We propose that weathering reactions and products can be predicted from the thermodynamics of the local mineral and volatile assemblage. In particular, the production of nanophase Fe (npFe0) on the grain surfaces of common asteroidal minerals will create strongly catalytic environments. In the case volatile-rich carbonaceous asteroids, common materials such as CO, H20, NH3 will react via Fischer-Tropsch and related catalytic processes to synthesize organic molecules. We will review the chemical reactions, possible weathering paths, and weathering products for a range of solar system objects.