Compositional Variegation of Large-Diameter Low-Albedo Asteroids

F. Vilas (NASA JSC), K.S. Jarvis (LMSMSS), T.D. Anz-Meador (VSTI), C.A. Thibault (Denison U.), S.R. Sawyer (NASA Ames), A. Fitzsimmons (Queen's U., Belfast)

Asteroids showing signs of aqueous alteration and thermal metamorphism in visible/near IR spectroscopy and photometry (C, G, F, B, and P classes) ranging from 0.37 - 0.90 tex2html_wrap_inline11 m dominate the asteroid population at heliocentric distances of 2.6 - 3.5 AU. Age dating of meteorites indicates that the Solar System was subjected to a major heating event 4.5 Gyr ago. Recent meteoritic research has produced evidence of a carbonaceous chondrite subjected to two separate aqueous alteration events with a metamorphic heating inbetween (Krot et al., 1997, submitted). Models of the effects of heating by electromagnetic induction or decay of short-lived radionuclides combined with models of the early collisional history of the Solar System after Jupiter's formation indicate that asteroids observed today can be divided into two groups by diameter. Those asteroids having diameters greater than 100 km were mixed by multiple collisions but remain as gravitationally bound rubble piles. Asteroids with diameters less than 100 km should show more compositional diversity. Vilas and Sykes (1996, Icarus, v. 124, 483) have shown using ECAS photometry that this compositional difference exists. Those asteroids having diameters greater than 100 km should be individually homogeneous, with spectral differences showing the combined effects of a primordial compositional gradient in the asteroid belt with thermal metamorphism. We address the significance of spatially-resolved spectra of 42 asteroids to the collective origin of these asteroids.