Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

Living Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James Cleaves, Daniele Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Michel Viso

Space Weathering

  • Harald HoffmannEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27833-4_1472-2


Space weathering describes all the effects caused by the interaction between the surface of an airless planetary body and the space environment.


The term space weathering summarizes alteration processes on an atmosphereless planetary surface due to the interaction of the surface material or regolith with the space environment. As the direct contact layer between the planetary body and space, the surface is permanently reworked and physically and/or chemically modified by micrometeorite impacts, galactic and solar cosmic rays, solar irradiation, and the solar wind. These weathering processes may strongly affect the optical properties of the surface material and have to be taken into account in the analysis of remotely sensed observations.

The planetary surface is pulverized and turned over by a continuous micrometeorite bombardment. Depending on the kinetic energy involved, micrometeorite impacts may result in the melting of material and the formation of glass-welded...


Cosmic rays Exospheres Micrometeorite impacts Optical alteration Solar wind Sputtering 
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References and Further Reading

  1. Chapman CR (2004) Space weathering of asteroid surfaces. Ann Rev Earth Planet Sci 32:539–567. doi:10.1146/annurev.earth.32.101802.120453ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Hapke B (2001) Space weathering from mercury to the asteroid belt. J Geophys Res 106(E5):10039–10073. doi:10.1029/2000JE001338ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Lucey P, Korotev RL, Gillis JJ, Taylor LA, Lawrence D, Campbell BA, Elphic R, Feldman B, Hood LL, Hunten D, Mendillo M, Noble S, Papike JJ, Reedy RC, Lawson S, Prettyman T, Gasnault O, Maurice S (2006) Understanding the lunar surface and space-moon interactions. Rev Mineral Geochem 60:83–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Pieters CM, Fischer EM, Rode O, Basu A (1993) Optical effects of space weathering: the role of the finest fraction. J Geophys Res 98(E11):20817–20824. doi:10.1029/93JE02467ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.DLRInstitute of Planetary ResearchBerlinGermany