LPL Special Colloquium: Dr. Michelle Thompson

From Atoms to Asteroids

Dr. Michelle Thompson
Assistant Professor
Purdue University

From Atoms to Asteroids: Understanding the Evolution of Airless Planetary Surfaces across the Solar System through Coordinated Analyses of Returned Samples

Soil grains on airless surfaces such as the Moon and asteroids are continuously being modified by their exposure to interplanetary space through a process known as space weathering. Driven by micrometeorite bombardment and irradiation by the solar wind, space weathering changes the chemical and microstructural characteristics of soil grains and, as a result, their spectral properties measured with remote sensing spacecraft. Studies of space weathering are critical for understanding the composition of all airless planetary surfaces from Mercury, to the Moon, to asteroids, and beyond. In order to build a robust model for space weathering across the solar system, I combine nanoscale analyses of returned samples and experimental simulations of space weathering in the laboratory with spacecraft observations. Here I will discuss my recent work using coordinated analysis to understand space weathering of carbonaceous asteroids, the Moon, and Mercury and the role space weathering plays in the distribution and detection of volatiles throughout the solar system. These results will include analysis of samples from the Apollo missions, and the Hayabusa2 mission, and discuss preparation for upcoming sample return from OSIRIS-REx.

Host: Dr. Jessica Barnes


Tuesday, March 21, 2023 - 3:45pm