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Development of image texture analysis technique for boulder distribution measurements: Applications to asteroids Ryugu and Itokawa

Abstract : Recent asteroid missions have revealed that many sub-kilometer asteroids are rubble piles. Large parts of their surfaces are covered with boulders larger than tens of centimeters. An evaluation of the abundance and size distribution of boulders provides clues to understand surface processes on boulder-covered asteroids. Here we report a new method that automatically measures the abundance of small boulders (sub-pixel to a few pixels), whose boundaries cannot be recognized with visual inspection, by quantifying the surface radiance variation that occurs during the spinning of the asteroid. After validating our approach with previous boulder counting data, we apply this method to images of the asteroids Ryugu and Itokawa, which were visited by JAXA's Hayabusa and Hayabusa2, and obtain a global distribution of the boulders larger than 0.75–3 ​m, which corresponds to 1.5–6 pixels. We find that the boulder number density of this size range is smaller (1) on the western bulge than on the eastern hemisphere and (2) on the equatorial ridge than on the higher latitudes, both of which exceed the number density of boulders ​> ​5 ​m by an order of magnitude. The boulder size distribution at 1.25–20 ​m shows that the boulders smaller than 1 ​m are more abundant at the equator than at mid-latitudes, while those larger than 1 ​m in diameter are more abundant at mid-latitudes than at the equator. This contrast suggests size-dependent migration of boulders in the latitudinal direction. We also find that the typical boulder size (the size reaching the cumulative areal coverage of 50%) is 1.9 ​m at the equatorial region (10°S-10°N) while it is 2.6 ​m at mid-latitudes (40°S-50°S, 40°N-50°N). The typical boulder size is also smaller in the western bulge (2.0–2.2 ​m). We construct global maps of the power-law index of the size frequency distribution of boulders and find minor variations over the entire surface of Ryugu (−2.53 ​± ​0.03) for boulders larger than 1.25 ​m. This small variation suggests homogeneous size sorting processes on Ryugu. Surface roughness does not show a significant correlation with the v-band albedo but shows a high anti-correlation (R ​= ​−0.73) with the current geological slope on the eastern hemisphere. Our method is useful enhancement of smooth area detection and boulder distribution characterization that will be applicable to other planetary explorations in the future, including those of Phobos and other asteroids.
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Submitted on : Sunday, October 17, 2021 - 7:01:47 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, January 4, 2022 - 6:02:08 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Tuesday, January 18, 2022 - 6:21:22 PM


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Naoya Tanabe, Yuichiro Cho, Eri Tatsumi, Tatsuki Ebihara, Koki Yumoto, et al.. Development of image texture analysis technique for boulder distribution measurements: Applications to asteroids Ryugu and Itokawa. Planetary and Space Science, Elsevier, 2021, 204, pp.105249. ⟨10.1016/j.pss.2021.105249⟩. ⟨insu-03381697⟩



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