Global survey of color variations on 433 Eros: Implications for regolith processes and asteroid environments
High-resolution imaging acquired with the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous Shoemaker (NEAR Shoemaker) spacecraft is used to elucidate the spectral properties and spatial distribution of color units on Asteroid 433 Eros. Previous workers mapped four distinct types of color units on the surface ( bright streaks, dark soils, ponded materials, average regolith). These units exhibit albedo and color boundaries but there is no evidence to indicate they represent distinct rock types. Rather the units are thought to show evidence of complex regolith transport and sorting processes. Here we report the results of a comprehensive study of all viable color MultiSpectral Imager (MSI) data to identify and characterize the distribution and nature of color units across the whole asteroid. Due to a spacecraft upset that resulted in contamination of the MSI optics, color images are affected with a scattered light problem that hampers interpretation of subtle color contrasts, even after a rigorous remediation. To constrain interpretations of the MSI color data we characterize this residual scattered light and demonstrate how complete correction would affect derived color ratios. Results of our comprehensive study are consistent with previous mapping—confirming that bright streaks, average regolith and dark soils fall on a mixing line, consistent with space weathering effects. We find that the ponded deposits do not fall on this putative mixing line. The color and reflectance of the ponded deposits are consistent with some combination of compositional, grain size and maturity variations from the average regolith. Additionally we show that spectral separation of the four units on ratio plots would only increase with full removal of residual scattered light, especially for features that are small in terms of pixels. Global analysis of the Eros color units illustrates complex regolith processes and grain sorting that may hold clues to understanding space weathering processes and the link between asteroids and meteorites.