Curves of polarization are available at present for asteroids Vesta, Ceres, Pallas, Iris, Flora, and Icarus. These curves are compared with those of the satellites of Jupiter and Mercury, the Moon, and Mars. Laboratory simulations had already proved that the Moon's surface behaves like a powder of pulverized basalts; the recent confirmation by direct exploration is proving the significance of the method for remote determination of the surface properties of celestial bodies. The simulation of the Martian surface is found on small grained powders oxidized by ferreous limonite or goethite. New laboratory measurements were conducted to prepare the simulation of the asteroidal surfaces. Samples of the lunar surface returned to Earth provide impact-generated regolith and bare rocks superficially pitted and etched by impacts of the types suggested to be found on asteroidal surfaces; they were analyzed polarimetrically.
Preliminary interpretations show that Vesta departs significantly from the other asteroids and cannot be covered by frost deposits or by aggregate cosmic dusts; a regolith-type surface generated by impacts or a coating of cohesive grains is indicated.
Ceres, Pallas, and Iris are darker, and their polarizations do not suggest a pure regolithic surface, but cohesive grains or aggregates of dust are indicated.
Icarus is 108 times smaller in mass; its polarization authorizes a fluffy, loosely aggregated dust deposit; however, a cometary model with stones embedded in ice is perhaps not ruled out on the basis of the present data.
The way in which deep-space missions near the asteroidal belt can improve these results is discussed.