Capture effects in carbonaceous material: A Stardust analogue study



Abstract— It is reasonable to expect that cometary samples returned to Earth by the Stardust space probe have been altered to some degree during capture in aerogel at 6.1 km/s. In order to help interpret the measured structure of these particles with respect to their original cometary nature, a series of coal samples of known structure and chemical composition was fired into aerogel at Stardust capture velocity. This portion of the study analyzed the surfaces of aerogel-embedded particles using Raman spectroscopy. Results show that particle surfaces are largely homogenized during capture regardless of metamorphic grade or chemical composition, apparently to include a devolatilization step during capture processing. This provides a possible mechanism for alteration of some aliphatic compound-rich phases through devolatilization of cometary carbonaceous material followed by re-condensation within the particle. Results also show that the possibility of alteration must be considered for any particular Stardust grain, as examples of both graphitization and amorphization are found in the coal samples. It is evident that Raman G band (∼1580 cm−1) parameters provide a means of characterizing Stardust carbonaceous material to include identifying those grains which have been subjected to significant capture alteration.