Chelyabinsk meteorite explains unusual spectral properties of Baptistina Asteroid Family

Vishnu Reddy, Juan A. Sanchez, William F. Bottke, Edward A. Cloutis, Matthew R.M. Izawa, David P. O'Brien, Paul Mann, Matthew Cuddy, Lucille Le Corre, Michael J. Gaffey, Gary Fujihara

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We investigated the spectral and compositional properties of Chelyabinsk meteorite to identify its possible parent body in the main asteroid belt. Our analysis shows that the meteorite contains two spectrally distinct but compositionally indistinguishable components of LL5 chondrite and shock blackened/impact melt material. Our X-ray diffraction analysis confirms that the two lithologies of the Chelyabinsk meteorite are extremely similar in modal mineralogy. The meteorite is compositionally similar to LL chondrite and its most probable parent asteroid in the main belt is a member of the Flora family. Our work confirms previous studies (e.g., Vernazza et al. [2008]. Nature 454, 858-860; de León, J., Licandro, J., Serra-Ricart, M., Pinilla-Alonso, N., Campins, H. [2010]. Astron. Astrophys. 517, A23; Dunn, T.L., Burbine, T.H., Bottke, W.F., Clark, J.P. [2013]. Icarus 222, 273-282), linking LL chondrites to the Flora family. Intimate mixture of LL5 chondrite and shock blackened/impact melt material from Chelyabinsk provides a spectral match with (8) Flora, the largest asteroid in the Flora family. The Baptistina family and Flora family overlap each other in dynamical space. Mineralogical analysis of (298) Baptistina and 11 small family members shows that their surface compositions are similar to LL chondrites, although their absorption bands are subdued and albedos lower when compared to typical S-type asteroids. A range of intimate mixtures of LL5 chondrite and shock blackened/impact melt material from Chelyabinsk provides spectral matches for all these BAF members. We suggest that the presence of a significant shock/impact melt component in the surface regolith of BAF members could be the cause of lower albedo and subdued absorption bands. The conceptual problem with part of this scenario is that impact melts are very rare within ordinary chondrites. Of the ~42,000 ordinary chondrites, less than 0.5% (203) of them contain impact melts. A major reason that impact melts are rare in meteorites is that high impact velocities (V > 10. km/s) are needed to generate the necessary shock pressures and temperatures (e.g., Pierazzo, E., Melosh, H.J. [1998]. Hydrocode modeling of oblique impacts: The fate of the projectile. In: Origin of the Earth and Moon, Proceedings of the Conference. LPI Contribution No. 957) unless the target material is highly porous. Nearly all asteroid impacts within the main belt are at ~5. km/s (Bottke, W.F., Nolan, M.C., Greenberg, R., Kolvoord, R.A. [1994]. Collisional lifetimes and impact statistics of near-Earth asteroids. In: Tucson, Gehrels T. (Ed.), Hazards Due to Comets and Asteroids. The University of Arizona Press, Arizona, pp. 337-357), which prevents them from producing much impact melt unless they are highly porous. However, shock darkening is an equally efficient process that takes place at much lower impact velocities (~2. km/s) and can cause the observed spectral effects. Spectral effects of shock darkening and impact melt are identical. The parent asteroid of BAF was either a member of the Flora family or had the same basic composition as the Floras (LL Chondrite). The shock pressures produced during the impact event generated enough impact melt or shock blackening to alter the spectral properties of BAF, but keep the BAF composition largely unchanged. Collisional mixing of shock blackened/impact melt and LL5 chondritic material could have created the Baptistina Asteroid Family with composition identical to those of the Floras, but with subdued absorption bands. Shock darkening and impact melt play an important role in altering the spectral and albedo properties of ordinary chondrites and our work confirms earlier work by Britt and Pieters (Britt, D.T., Pieters, C.M. [1994]. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 58, 3905-3919).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-130
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Jul 15 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Asteroid Itokawa
  • Asteroids
  • Asteroids, composition
  • Mineralogy
  • Spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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    Reddy, V., Sanchez, J. A., Bottke, W. F., Cloutis, E. A., Izawa, M. R. M., O'Brien, D. P., Mann, P., Cuddy, M., Le Corre, L., Gaffey, M. J., & Fujihara, G. (2014). Chelyabinsk meteorite explains unusual spectral properties of Baptistina Asteroid Family. Icarus, 237, 116-130.