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The opposition effect in the outer Solar system: A comparative study of the phase function morphology

Abstract : In this paper, we characterize the morphology of the disk-integrated phase functions of satellites and rings around the giant planets of our solar system. We find that the shape of the phase function is accurately represented by a logarithmic model [Bobrov, M.S., 1970. Physical properties of Saturn's rings. In: Dollfus, A. (Ed.), Surfaces and Interiors of Planets and Satellites. Academic, New York, pp. 376–461]. For practical purposes, we also parametrize the phase curves by a linear-exponential model [Kaasalainen, S., Muinonen, K., Piironen, J., 2001. Comparative study on opposition effect of icy solar system objects. Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer 70, 529–543] and a simple linear-by-parts model [Lumme, K., Irvine, W.M., 1976. Photometry of Saturn's rings. Astronomical Journal 81, 865–893], which provides three morphological parameters: the amplitude A and the half-width at half-maximum (HWHM) of the opposition surge, and the slope S of the linear part of the phase function at larger phase angles. Our analysis demonstrates that all of these morphological parameters are correlated with the single-scattering albedos of the surfaces. By taking more accurately into consideration the finite angular size of the Sun, we find that the Galilean, Saturnian, Uranian and Neptunian satellites have similar HWHMs (<~0.5°), whereas they have a wide range of amplitudes A. The Moon has the largest HWHM (~2°). We interpret that as a consequence of the “solar size bias”, via the finite angular size of the Sun which varies dramatically from the Earth to Neptune. By applying a new method that attempts to morphologically deconvolve the phase function to the solar angular size, we find that icy and young surfaces, with active resurfacing, have the smallest values of A and HWHM, whereas dark objects (and perhaps older surfaces) such as the Moon, Nereid and Saturn's C ring have the largest A and HWHM. Comparison between multiple objects also shows that solar system objects belonging to the same planet have comparable opposition surges. This can be interpreted as a “planetary environmental effect” that acts to locally modify the regolith and the surface properties of objects which are in the same environment.
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Estelle Déau, Luke Dones, Sébastien Rodriguez, Sébastien Charnoz, André Brahic. The opposition effect in the outer Solar system: A comparative study of the phase function morphology. Planetary and Space Science, Elsevier, 2009, 57 (11), pp.1282-1301. ⟨10.1016/j.pss.2009.05.005⟩. ⟨hal-03702527⟩



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