OPEN Nature communications | 14 Sep 2017
EM Palmer, E Heggy and W Kofman
We present orbital bistatic radar observations of a small-body, acquired during occultation by the Dawn spacecraft at asteroid Vesta. The radar forward-scattering properties of different reflection sites are used to assess the textural properties of Vesta’s surface at centimeter-to-decimeter scales and are compared to subsurface hydrogen concentrations observed by Dawn’s Gamma Ray and Neutron Detector to assess potential volatile occurrence in the surface and shallow subsurface. We observe significant differences in surface radar reflectivity, implying substantial spatial variations in centimeter-to-decimeter-scale surface roughness. Our results suggest that unlike the Moon, Vesta’s surface roughness variations cannot be explained by cratering processes only. In particular, the occurrence of heightened hydrogen concentrations within large smoother terrains (over hundreds of square kilometers) suggests that potential ground-ice presence may have contributed to the formation of Vesta’s current surface texture. Our observations are consistent with geomorphological evidence of transient water flow from Dawn Framing Camera images.The Dawn spacecraft has provided orbital bistatic radar observations of a small body in the solar system. Here, the authors present results from Vesta suggesting that smooth terrains with heightened hydrogen concentrations indicate that ground-ice presence potentially helped shape Vesta’s current surface texture.
* Data courtesy of Altmetric.com