Wednesday, April 11, 2012

LROC: Flow Boundary in Mare Imbrium

A small scarp is exposed in this high sunrise incidence angle (75.95°) Narrow Angle Camera frame, around 95 kilometers north by northeast of Mons La Hire in Mare Imbrium. The area to the east is raised relative to the area on the west of the scarp by as little as 10 meters. LROC NAC M177792062L, LRO orbit 11337, December 6, 2011; field of view 610 meters, resolution 0.6 meters per pixel from 43.86 kilometers. View the full-size LROC Featured Image HERE [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Drew Enns
LROC News System

Today's Featured Image shows the boundary of a flow front in Mare Imbrium. Unlike other flows LROC has observed (granular, impact melt), these are lava flows! The flows are about 35 m thick, making them hard to observe unless the Sun is low and casting long shadows.

Apollo 15 imaged the flows early in the lunar morning, when the Sun was low on the horizon to help the low relief flows cast larger shadows!

Combining the observed geometric properties of these flows with viscosities calculated from the Apollo samples allow scientists to constrain how lava behaves on the Moon.

The same field of view at a slightly less inclined morning incidence angle (60.84°), LROC NAC M129452673R, orbit 4211, May 25, 2010, resolution 0.46 meters from 37.66 kilometers [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
For context, the full, uncorrected approximate 2200 meter width of the field of view swept up in LROC NAC M129452673R. The area of interest is just left of center [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
LROC Wide Angle Camera (WAC) context for the LROC Featured Image, released April 11, 2012 and narrowly focused near 30.593° N, 335.302° E. The WAC observation above was swept up from the orbiter during the same orbital pass as that of the Featured Image NAC frame. The large incidence angle brings out subtle changes in topography, enhancing the Imbrium lava flows. Image field of view is 35 kilometers. LROC WAC M177791761C (604nm), resolution 60 meters per pixel [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
The Imbrium flows are fairly thick, and the WAC context shows them extending for at least 120 km, but the flows continue for several hundred kilometers. Should we expect this? Because the Moon's gravity is weaker than the Earth's, we can expect lunar lava flows to be ~1.7 times as thick as a terrestrial flow of similar length! 

Flows of similar length on Earth have only been observed in flood basalts, which are large volumes of lava that were erupted quickly. 

This correlation indicates that the lunar lava flows must have erupted quickly as well. Even so, these flows are some of the few examples still visible on the Moon's surface, and it is unclear how their thickness and extent relate to the majority of volcanism that filled in the large basins resulting in the maria.

Check out more lava related feature posts below and explore the lava flows in the full LROC NAC Featured Image, HERE.

Related Posts:
Layers near Apollo 15 landing site
Layering in Euler Crater
Old Man River of Lava

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