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Regolith Migration and Sorting on Asteroid Itokawa

Science  18 May 2007:
Vol. 316, Issue 5827, pp. 1011-1014
DOI: 10.1126/science.1134390

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Abstract

High-resolution images of the surface of asteroid Itokawa from the Hayabusa mission reveal it to be covered with unconsolidated millimeter-sized and larger gravels. Locations and morphologic characteristics of this gravel indicate that Itokawa has experienced considerable vibrations, which have triggered global-scale granular processes in its dry, vacuum, microgravity environment. These processes likely include granular convection, landslide-like granular migrations, and particle sorting, resulting in the segregation of the fine gravels into areas of potential lows. Granular processes become major resurfacing processes because of Itokawa's small size, implying that they can occur on other small asteroids should those have regolith.

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