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The organic surface of 5145 Pholus: Constraints set by scattering theoryNo known body in the Solar System has a spectrum redder than that of object 5145 Pholus. We use Hapke scattering theory and optical constants measured in this laboratory to examine the ability of mixtures of a number of organic solids and ices to reproduce the observed spectrum and phase variation. The primary materials considered are poly-HCN, kerogen, Murchison organic extract, Titan tholin, ice tholin, and water ice. In a computer grid search of over 10 million models, we find an intraparticle mixture of 15% Titan tholin, 10% poly-HCN, and 75% water ice with 10-micrometers particles to provide an excellent fit. Replacing water ice with ammonia ice improves the fits significantly while using a pure hydrocarbon tholin, Tholin alpha, instead of Titan tholin makes only modest improvements. All acceptable fits require Titan tholin or some comparable material to provide the steep slope in the visible, and poly-HCN or some comparable material to provide strong absorption in the near-infrared. A pure Titan tholin surface with 16-micrometers particles, as well as all acceptable Pholus models, fit the present spectrophotometric data for the transplutonian object 1992 QB(sub 1). The feasibility of gas-phase chemistry to generate material like Titan tholin on such small objects is examined. An irradiated transient atmosphere arising from sublimating ices may generate at most a few centimeters of tholin over the lifetime of the Solar System, but this is insignificant compared to the expected lag deposit of primordial contaminants left behind by the sublimating ice. Irradiation of subsurface N2/CH4 or NH3/CH4 ice by cosmic rays may generate approximately 20 cm of tholin in the upper 10 m of regolith in the same time scale but the identity of this tholin to its gas-phase equivalent has not been demonstrated.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
External Source(s)
Wilson, Peter D. (Cornell Univ. Ithaca, NY, United States)
Sagan, Carl (Cornell Univ. Ithaca, NY, United States)
Thompson, W. Reid (Cornell Univ. Ithaca, NY, United States)
Date Acquired
August 16, 2013
Publication Date
February 1, 1994
Publication Information
Publication: ICARUS
Volume: 107
Issue: 2
ISSN: 0019-1035
Subject Category
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits