Sublimation of ice–tholins mixtures: A morphological and spectro-photometric study

Abstract : Sublimation, the direct transition from solid to gas phase, is a process responsible for shaping and changing the reflectance properties of many Solar System surfaces. In this study, we have characterized the evolution of the structure/texture and of the visible and near-infrared (VIS–NIR) spectral reflectance of surfaces made of water ice mixed with analogues of complex extraterrestrial organic matter, named tholins, under low temperature (<−70 °C) and pressure (10−5 mbar) conditions. The experiments were carried out in the SCITEAS simulation setup recently built as part of the Laboratory for Outflow Studies of Sublimating Materials (LOSSy) at the University of Bern (Pommerol, A. et al. [2015a]. Planet. Space Sci. 109–110, 106–122). As the water ice sublimated, we observed in situ the formation of a sublimation lag deposit made of a water-free porous (>90% porosity) network of organic filaments on top of the ice. The temporal evolution of the tholins and water ice spectral features (reflectance at the absorption bands wavelengths, red slope, from 0.40 to 1.90 μm) are analyzed throughout the sublimation of the samples. We studied how different mixtures of tholins with water (0.1 wt.% tholins as coating or inclusions within the water particles), and different ice particle sizes (4.5 ± 2.5 or 67 ± 31 μm) influence the morphological and spectral evolutions of the samples. The sublimation of the ice below the mantle produces a gas flow responsible for the ejection of mm to cm-sized fragments of the deposit in outbursts-like events. The results show remarkable differences between these samples in term of mantle structure, speed of mantle building, rates and surface area of mantle ejections. These data provide useful references for interpreting remote-sensing observations of icy Solar System surfaces, in particular the activity of comet nuclei where sublimation of organic-rich ices and deposition of organic-dust particles likely play a major role. Consequently, the data presented here could be of high interest for the interpretation of Rosetta, and also New Horizons, observations.
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Submitted on : Monday, November 30, 2015 - 10:57:38 AM
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Olivier Poch, Antoine Pommerol, Bernhard Jost, Nathalie Carrasco, Cyril Szopa, et al.. Sublimation of ice–tholins mixtures: A morphological and spectro-photometric study. Icarus, Elsevier, 2016, 266, pp.288-305. ⟨10.1016/j.icarus.2015.11.006⟩. ⟨insu-01235406⟩

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