Friday, January 20, 2012

LROC Melt fractures in Jackson crater

Fractures can be seen in profuse abundance on the Jackson crater melt pond surface. Illumination from west, a field of view roughly 700 meters across swept up at an incidence angle of 71.13° LROC Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) observation M118560367L, LRO orbit 2606, January 19, 2010; resolution 0.84 meters from 52.97 kilometers altitude. View the full-size Featured Image HERE [NASA/GSFC /Arizona State University].
James Ashley
LROC News System

As molten rock cools, it shrinks and often cracks. In this case of impact melt ponded within the Jackson crater floor (22.18°N, 197.24°E), the cracking rate was so high that unfractured melt is almost more of an exception than a rule!

Radial and divergent patterns can be seen among the fracture sets that tell a story of the cooling history. The context image below shows a portion of their wider distribution.

As context for the January 18, 2012 LROC Featured Image (field of view near where the impact melt inundating the crater floor emerges from eastern wall slump; the white box) a long view north and up the steep northeastern wall, nearly to the rim, courtesy of the digital elevation model combined in Google Earth [NASA/USGS/ASU/JAXA/Google].
Overhead context for Featured Image, a field of view roughly 2.5 kilometers across from the wider LROC frame.View the full-size LROC context image HERE [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Solid objects in the melt, together with the 'shore' of the pond, appear to have influenced the way the cracks organized themselves as the melt cooled. Note how the fractures bend around or radiate from some of the positive relief features in the images above. These could be ejecta blocks or portions of the slumped crater walls in the melt that served to locally accelerate cooling. Their influence might thus be to 'seed' the stress field within the shrinking melt volume, helping some of the cracking to grow from these points, and ultimately resulting in the patterns we see today. Sagging along the shore can cause the cracking to parallel the shoreline. Any motion within the volume of melt, possibly influenced by late-stage additions of molten material, may also have contributed to the patterns observed here.

Further context, from 100 kilometers altitude, this square crop from a highly detailed HDTV still frame was captured by Japan's lunar orbiter SELENE-1 (Kaguya) in 2009 [JAXA/NHK/SELENE].
The extent and complexity of the melt pond features can be explored in the full NAC frame HERE. Additional examples of impact melt cracking include Polygonal fractures on Tycho ejecta deposits, fractured impact melt in Thales crater, and Moore F.

Ed Note: In a way opposite and contributing to the low optical visibility of the vast majority of similarly sized craters in the farside Highlands, Jackson is easier for the eye to see than most. Like Tycho on the nearside, there are a lot of craters of similar size and origin everywhere on the Moon. The difference is age. Like Tycho, the ray system of Jackson (and the materials its progenitor impact threw out) shows Jackson's "optical immaturity." To illustrate, below are two representations of the farside quadrant with the highest of the Highlands scoured by the Jackson impact, likely less than a half billion years ago.

Jackson stands out in this global montage of Clementine (1994) Ultra-Violet/Visible (UVVIS) wavelength photography designed to better map the Moon's albedo, more than a decade ago. Similar craters, basins and the Moon's highest elevations are nearly invisible [NASA/USGS/DOD].

A white arrow is needed to designate Jackson out from the pocked highlands and several otherwise invisible basins stand out with exceptional clarity in this view of nearly the same terrain as a representation of differences in elevation from the LROC Global Digital Terrain Model, developed using LROC Wide Angle Camera survey photography [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

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