Spectral characterization of the craters of Ryugu as observed by the NIRS3 instrument on-board Hayabusa2

Lucie Riu, Cédric Pilorget, Ralph Milliken, Kohei Kitazato, Tomoki Nakamura, Yuichiro Cho, Moe Matsuoka, Seiji Sugita, Masanao Abe, Shuji Matsuura, Makiko Ohtake, Shingo Kameda, Naoya Sakatani, Eri Tatsumi, Yasuhiro Yokota, Takahiro Iwata

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6 Citations (Scopus)


C-type rubble pile asteroid (162173) Ryugu was observed and characterized up close for a year and a half by the instruments on-board the Japanese Aerospace eXploration Agency (JAXA) Hayabusa2 spacecraft. The asteroid exhibits relatively homogeneous spectral characteristics at near-infrared wavelengths (~1.8–3.2 μm), including a very low reflectance factor, a slight positive (“red”) slope towards longer wavelengths, and a narrow absorption feature centered at 2.72 μm that is attributed to the presence of OH in phyllosilicate minerals. Numerous craters have been identified at the surface that provide good candidates for identifying and studying younger and/or more recently exposed near-surface material to further assess potential spectral/compositional heterogeneities. We present here the results of a spectral survey of all previously identified and referenced craters (Hirata et al. 2020) based on reflectance data acquired by the NIRS3 spectrometer, with an emphasis on the spectral characteristics between different craters as well as with their surrounding terrain. At a global scale, the spectral properties inside and outside of craters are found to be very similar, indicating that subsurface material is either compositionally similar to material at the surface that has a longer exposure age or that material at Ryugu's optical surface is spectrally altered over relatively short timescales by external factors such as space weathering. Although, the imaging data from ONC camera suites show more morphological and color diversity in craters at a smaller scale than the resolution provided by the NIRS3 instrument, which could indicate a wider compositional diversity on Ryugu than that observed in the near-infrared and discussed in this paper. The 2.72 μm band depth exhibit a slight anti-correlation with the reflectance factor selected at 2 μm, which could indicate different surface properties (e.g., grain size and/or porosity) or different alteration processes (e.g., space weathering, shock metamorphism and/or solar heating). Four different spectral classes were identified based on their reflectance factor at 2 μm and 2.72 μm absorption strength. The most commonly spectral behavior associated with crater floors, is defined by a slightly lower reflectance at 2 μm and deeper band depth. These spectral characteristics are similar to those of subsurface material excavated by the Hayabusa2 small carry-on impactor (SCI) experiment, suggesting these spectral characteristics may represent materials with a younger surface exposure age. Alternatively, these materials may have experienced significant solar heating and desiccation to form finer grains that subsequently migrated towards and preferentially accumulated in areas of low geopotential, such as craters floors. It is believed that the Hayabusa2 mission successfully collected typical surface material as well as darker material excavated by the SCI experiment, and detailed analyses of those samples upon their return will allow for further testing of these formation and alteration hypotheses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114253
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Mar 15

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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