On the application of magnetic methods for the characterisation of space weathering products

Bentley, Mark S.; Ball, Andrew; Wright, Ian P. and Zarnecki, John C. (2011). On the application of magnetic methods for the characterisation of space weathering products. Planetary And Space Science, 59(1) pp. 79–91.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pss.2010.11.008


Space weathering is now commonly accepted to modify the optical and magnetic properties of airless body regoliths throughout the Solar System. Although the precise formation processes are not well understood, the presence of ubiquitous sub-microscopic metallic iron (SMFe) grains in lunar soils and corresponding spectral analyses have explained both the unique optical and magnetic properties of such soils. More recently, a variety of ion irradiation, laser melting and vaporisation and impact experiments have been shown to reproduce these effects in the laboratory. Such experiments are crucial to the study of the formation of SMFe under controlled conditions. To date, more emphasis has been placed on optical analyses of laboratory samples, as these address directly the mineralogical interpretation of remote sensing data. However, the magnetic analyses performed on the Apollo and Luna samples have provided useful qualitative and quantitative evaluation of regolith metallic iron content. These techniques are reviewed here, demonstrated on pulsed laser irradiated olivine powder, and their utility for determining the quantity and size distribution of this metallic iron discussed. Ferromagnetic resonance, multi- frequency magnetic susceptibility, vibrating sample magnetometry and thermomagnetic measurements were carried out. Each showed trends expected for the conversion of paramagnetic Fe2+ in olivine to fine-grained Fe0, with some grains in the superparamagnetic size range. Although evidence for super- paramagnetic iron was found, the quantity of sub-microscopic metallic iron produced in these experiments proved insufficient to make conclusive measurements of either the quantity or size distribution of this iron. Improvements to both the experimental and analytical procedures are discussed to better enable such measurements in the future.

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