NEOCAM: The Near Earth Object Chemical Analysis Mission

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The prime measurement objective of the Near Earth Object Chemical Analysis Mission (NEOCAM) is to obtain the ultraviolet spectra of meteors entering the terrestrial atmosphere from ∼125 to 300 nm in meteor showers. All of the spectra will be collected using a slitless ultraviolet spectrometer in Earth orbit. Analysis of these spectra will reveal the degree of chemical diversity in the meteors, as observed in a single meteor shower. Such meteors are traceable to a specific parent body and we know exactly when the meteoroids in a particular shower were released from that parent body (Asher, in: Arlt (ed.) Proc. International Meteor Conference, 2000; Lyytinen and van Flandern, Earth Moon Planets 82–83:149–166, 2000). By observing multiple apparitions of meteor showers we can therefore obtain quasi-stratigraphic information on an individual comet or asteroid. We might also be able to measure systematic effects of chemical weathering in meteoroids from specific parent bodies by looking for correlations in the depletions of the more volatile elements as a function of space exposure (Borovička et al., Icarus 174:15–30, 2005). By observing the relation between meteor entry characteristics (such as the rate of deceleration or breakup) and chemistry we can determine if our meteorite collection is deficient in the most volatile-rich samples. Finally, we can obtain a direct measurement of metal deposition into the terrestrial stratosphere that may act to catalyze atmospheric chemical reactions.

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