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Polarimetry of Water Ice Particles Providing Insights on Grain Size and Degree of Sintering on Icy Planetary Surfaces

Abstract : The polarimetry of the light scattered by planetary surfaces is a powerful tool to provide constraints on their microstructure. To improve the interpretation of polarimetric data from icy surfaces, we have developed the POLarimeter for ICE Samples complementing the measurement facilities of the Ice Laboratory at the University of Bern. The new setup uses a high precision Stokes polarimeter to measure the degree of polarization in the visible light scattered by surfaces at moderate phase angles (from 1.5° to 30°). We present the photometric and polarimetric phase curves measured on various surfaces made of pure water ice particles having well-controlled size and shape (spherical, crushed, and frost). The results show how the amplitude and the shape of the negative polarization branch change with the particles sizes and the degree of metamorphism of the ice. We found that fresh frost formed by water condensation on cold surfaces has a phase curve characterized by resonances (Mie oscillations) indicating that frost embryos are transparent micrometer-sized particles with a narrow size distribution and spherical shape. Comparisons of these measurements with polarimetric observations of the icy satellites of the Solar System suggest that Europa is possibly covered by relatively coarser ( 40-400 μm) and more sintered grains than Enceladus and Rhea, more likely covered by frost-like particles of few micrometers in average. The great sensitivity of polarization to grain size and degree of sintering makes it an ideal tool to detect hints of ongoing processes on icy planetary surfaces, such as cryovolcanism.
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Submitted on : Monday, June 13, 2022 - 5:12:16 PM
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O. Poch, R. Cerubini, A. Pommerol, B. Jost, N. Thomas. Polarimetry of Water Ice Particles Providing Insights on Grain Size and Degree of Sintering on Icy Planetary Surfaces. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 2018, 123, pp.2564-2584. ⟨10.1029/2018JE005753⟩. ⟨insu-03693530⟩

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