Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pit craters in NAC DTM topography

The crisp morphology of the central Mare Fecunditatis pit (white arrow) stands out in elevation data and suggests a relatively young age. This pit is about 200-m in length and 45 m deep. Image width is 5 km; north is up. Color shaded-relief created from NAC DTM FecundPit; higher elevations shown in red and lower elevations in blue and purple [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
J. Stopar
LROC News System

Eight mare pits have been discovered so far on the Moon, five of which preserve void spaces (sublunarean voids) beneath overhanging mare layers. The pit featured above, located in central Mare Fecunditatis (0.917°S, 48.66°E), however, does not have an obvious void space. The pit is almost 200 m wide and about 45 m deep.

The central Mare Fecunditatis pit has a concave shape, with gentler slopes (outer funnel) near the upper mare surface, and a steeper-walled inner pit (see image below). Variations in wall slopes are consistent with a fine-grained, particulate layer (regolith) overlying more coherent mare layers. The steep inner pit suggests collapse into a small void space. The debris in the pit floor consists of both regolith and mare blocks from the upper layers.

Pit crater (0.92°S, 48.66°E) near Messier B, now generally designated the Central Fecunditatis pit crater to distinguish it for a more recently discovered skylight in southwest Fecunditatis. LRO's longevity has enabled repeated narrow angle photography of selected areas on the Moon, allowing for the team at Arizona State University to build up very high-resolution, NAC-based digital terrain models. 540 meter field of view from LROC NAC observation M1105602888R, LRO orbit 15232, October 23, 2012; 35.18° incidence angle, resolution 93 cm from 108.28 km over 0.92°S, 49°E [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University]
Left: color shaded-relief of NAC-derived elevation data. Reds are higher elevations, purple lower elevations. Right: elevation profile of a north-to-south cross-section through the pit. The inner pit has steep walls, while slopes near the mare surface (outer funnel) are more gentle [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
The lack of raised rim or ejecta around the pit, indicates that it most likely formed through collapse, rather than as an impact event. While this pit is not located near any obvious tectonic features or volcanic constructs, the collapse may have occurred into part of an old lava tube. The crispness of the pit morphology, suggests that the collapse occurred relatively recently (geologically speaking, at least), perhaps much less than 1 billion years ago. Pits are among some of the youngest landforms on the Moon, and are similar in age to many fresh craters (such as Tycho, Copernicus, or Aristarchus).

More recently identified pit crater in southwest Mare Fecunditatis (6.752°S, 42.76°E), discovered during Wagner and Robinson survey. A 325 meter-wide field of view from LROC NAC M167926438R, LRO orbit 9881, August 14, 2011; 42.25° incidence angle, resolution 56 cm from 26.73 km over 6.71°S, 42.72°E [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Read More About Lunar Pits:  Lunar pits were recently featured in the news and the focus of a scientific publication ("Distribution, formation mechanisms, and significance of lunar pits," Robert V. Wagner and Mark S. Robinson, Icarus, July 2014; pg. 52-60).

The pits are of particular interest to lunar scientists because they could offer access to subsurface materials, making them important targets for further research and exploration.

Explore the pit in the full-resolution LROC NAC observation HERE.

More Pits:

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