Small asteroids such as Itokawa are covered with an unconsolidated regolith layer of centimeter-sized or smaller particles. There are two plausible formation mechanisms for regolith layers on a sub-kilometer-sized asteroid: (i) fragments produced by thermal fatigue by day-night temperature cycles on the asteroid surface and (ii) impact fragment. Previous studies suggest that thermal fatigue induces crack growth along the boundary surface of the mineral grain while impact phenomena may induce crack growth regardless of the boundary surface of the mineral grain. Therefore, it is possible that the crack growth within a mineral grain (and/or a chondrule) differs depending on the crack formation mechanism, be it thermal fatigue or an impact. In order to investigate how mineral grains and chondrules are affected by impact-induced crack growth, we fired spherical alumina projectiles (diameter ~1 mm) into 9 mm side length cubic targets of L chondrites at a nominal impact velocity of 2.0 km/s. Before and after the six successful impact experiments, the cracks within mineral grains and chondrules in the respective targets are examined using X-ray microtomography at a resolution with the voxel size of 9.0 μm. The results show that most cracks within chondrules and troilite (FeS) grow regardless of the boundary surfaces of the grains while most cracks within ductile Fe-Ni metal grow along the boundary surfaces of the grains. This may indicate that crack growth is largely affected by the strength of mineral grains (and/or chondrules). From the experimental results and the fact that the shapes of polymineralic and monomineralic particles from Itokawa are similar, we conclude that the Itokawa particles have not been produced by thermal fatigue but instead are likely to be impact fragments, as described in previous papers (Tsuchiyama et al., 2011, 2014; Michikami et al., 2018).
- Crack growth
- L chondrite
- Laboratory impact experiments
- X-ray microtomography