Ceres’ opposition effect observed by the Dawn framing camera
Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR),
2 Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, AZ 85719, USA
3 Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA
4 Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1567, USA
5 Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziali, Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, 00133 Rome, Italy
6 Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA
Accepted: 23 October 2018
Context. The surface reflectance of planetary regoliths may increase dramatically towards zero phase angle, a phenomenon known as the opposition effect (OE). Two physical processes that are thought to be the dominant contributors to the brightness surge are shadow hiding (SH) and coherent backscatter (CB). The occurrence of shadow hiding in planetary regoliths is self-evident, but it has proved difficult to unambiguously demonstrate CB from remote sensing observations. One prediction of CB theory is the wavelength dependence of the OE angular width.
Aims. The Dawn spacecraft observed the OE on the surface of dwarf planet Ceres. We aim to characterize the OE over the resolved surface, including the bright Cerealia Facula, and to find evidence for SH and/or CB. It is presently not clear if the latter can contribute substantially to the OE for surfaces as dark as that of Ceres.
Methods. We analyze images of the Dawn framing camera by means of photometric modeling of the phase curve.
Results. We find that the OE of most of the investigated surface has very similar characteristics, with an enhancement factor of 1.4 and a full width at half maximum of 3° (“broad OE”). A notable exception are the fresh ejecta of the Azacca crater, which display a very narrow brightness enhancement that is restricted to phase angles <0.5° (“narrow OE”); suggestively, this is in the range in which CB is thought to dominate. We do not find a wavelength dependence for the width of the broad OE, and lack the data to investigate the dependence for the narrow OE. The prediction of a wavelength-dependent CB width is rather ambiguous, and we suggest that dedicated modeling of the Dawn observations with a physically based theory is necessary to better understand the Ceres OE. The zero-phase observations allow us to determine Ceres’ visible geometric albedo as pV = 0.094 ± 0.005. A comparison with other asteroids suggests that Ceres’ broad OE is typical for an asteroid of its spectral type, with characteristics that are primarily linked to surface albedo.
Conclusions. Our analysis suggests that CB may occur on the dark surface of Ceres in a highly localized fashion. While the results are inconclusive, they provide a piece to the puzzle that is the OE of planetary surfaces.
Key words: minor planets, asteroids: individual: Ceres / radiative transfer
© ESO 2018