Vol 19, No 4

Space weathering of the Moon from in situ detection

Yun-Zhao Wu, Zhen-Chao Wang, Yu Lu


Abstract Space weathering is an important surface process that occurs on the Moon and other airless bodies, especially those that have no magnetic field. The optical effects of the Moon’s space weathering have largely been investigated in the laboratory for lunar samples and lunar analogues. However, duplication of pristine regolith on Earth is not possible. Here we report on space weathering from the unique perspective of the “Yutu” rover, which was part of the Chang’e-3 (CE-3) mission, building on our previous work. Measurement of the visually undisturbed uppermost regolith as well as locations that have been affected by rocket exhaust from the spacecraft by the Visible-Near Infrared Spectrometer (VNIS) revealed that the returned samples provide biased information about the pristine lunar regolith. The uppermost surficial regolith is much more weathered than the regolith immediately below, and the finest fraction is rich in space weathered products. These materials are very dark and attenuated throughout the visible and near-infrared (VNIR) wavelengths, hence reducing the reflectance and masking the absorption features. The effects on the spectral slope caused by space weathering are wavelength-dependent: the visible and near-infrared continuum slope (VNCS) increases while the visible slope (VS) decreases. In the visible wavelengths, the optical effects of space weathering and TiO 2 are identical: both reduce albedo and blue the spectra. This suggests that a new TiO 2 abundance algorithm is needed. Optical maturity indices are related to composition and hence only locally meaningful. Since optical remote sensing can only sense the uppermost few microns of regolith and since this surface tends to be very weathered, the interpretation of surface composition using optical remote sensing data needs to be carefully evaluated. Sampling the uppermost surface is suggested.


Keywords Moon — evolution — spectroscopic — data analysis

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