Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Reflectance spectroscopy (0.35–8 μm) of ammonium-bearing minerals and qualitative comparison to Ceres-like asteroids

February 1, 2016

Ammonium-bearing minerals have been suggested to be present on Mars, Ceres, and various asteroids and comets. We undertook a systematic study of the spectral reflectance properties of ammonium-bearing minerals and compounds that have possible planetary relevance (i.e., ammonium carbonates, chlorides, nitrates, oxalates, phosphates, silicates, and sulfates). Various synthetic and natural NH4+-bearing minerals were analyzed using reflectance spectroscopy in the long-wave ultraviolet, visible, near-infrared, and mid-infrared regions (0.35–8 μm) in order to identify spectral features characteristic of the NH4+ molecule, and to evaluate if and how these features vary among different species. Mineral phases were confirmed through structural and compositional analyses using X-ray diffraction, X-ray fluorescence, and elemental combustion analysis. Characteristic absorption features associated with NH4 can be seen in the reflectance spectra at wavelengths as short as ∼1 μm. In the near-infrared region, the most prominent absorption bands are located near 1.6, 2.0, and 2.2 μm. Absorption features characteristic of NH4+ occurred at slightly longer wavelengths in the mineral-bound NH4+ spectra than for free NH4+ for most of the samples. Differences in wavelength position are attributable to various factors, including differences in the type and polarizability of the anion(s) attached to the NH4+, degree and type of hydrogen bonding, molecule symmetry, and cation substitutions. Multiple absorption features, usually three absorption bands, in the mid-infrared region between ∼2.8 and 3.8 μm were seen in all but the most NH4-poor sample spectra, and are attributed to fundamentals, combinations, and overtones of stretching and bending vibrations of the NH4+ molecule. These features appear even in reflectance spectra of water-rich samples which exhibit a strong 3 μm region water absorption feature. While many of the samples examined in this study have NH4 absorption bands at unique wavelength positions, in order to discriminate between different NH4+-bearing phases, absorption features corresponding to molecules other than NH4+ should be included in spectral analysis. A qualitative comparison of the laboratory results to telescopic spectra of Asteroids 1 Ceres, 10 Hygiea, and 324 Bamberga for the 3 μm region demonstrates that a number of NH4-bearing phases are consistent with the observational data in terms of exhibiting an absorption band in the 3.07 μm region.

Publication Year 2016
Title Reflectance spectroscopy (0.35–8 μm) of ammonium-bearing minerals and qualitative comparison to Ceres-like asteroids
DOI 10.1016/j.icarus.2015.10.028
Authors Breanne L. Berg, Edward A. Cloutis, P. Beck, P. Vernazza, Janice L Bishop, Driss Takir, V. Reddy, D. Applin, Paul Mann
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Icarus
Index ID 70164449
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Astrogeology Science Center