Friday, August 29, 2014

Tadpole and Lava Tube (NAC DTM)

An irregularly shaped depression, resembling a tadpole, first and largest in a sinuous chain of pits. A 14.4 km field of view from LROC Narrow Angle Camera-derived Digital Terrain Model (NAC-DTM) of the tadpole-shaped start of the informally named "Gruithuisen K Sinuous Rille chain" complex in north central Oceanus Procellarum. Color shaded-relief depicts elevation derived from photo-interferometry based on four LROC Narrow Angle Camera observations and resulting in an array of highly granular practical data, packaged into LROC NAC DTM PITVENT; higher elevations are red and white, lower elevations are blue and purple [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
J. Stopar
LROC News System

Today's feature is an irregularly shaped, steep-walled mare depression that looks a bit like a tadpole; it is about 8 km long and located at the northwest end of a 60-km long, sinuous chain of pits (35.284°N, 315.901°E) northwest of Gruithuisen crater.

The pit chain was one of the first and most spectacular candidates proposed for an intact lunar lava tube (i.e., one with uncollapsed segments).

This depression may be the source vent for the lava flows that host the pit chain (see image below).

The unnamed first among many candidate features surveyed for hints of underground voids, lava tubes, etc., west of Gruithuisen K crater in north central Oceanus Procellarum. LROC WAC mosaic swept up over three sequential orbits July 12, 2011; 77.2° incidence, resolution 57.9 meters from 42.5 km [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Volcanic vents tend to be sub-circular or elongate, like today's feature, which is roughly 600 meters deep and has steep inner walls (~35° slopes). Similarly sized and shaped features include examples near Sulpicius Gallus crater and the Orientale basin. Dark, low-albedo, materials surrounding the Sulpicius Gallus and Orientale features suggest formation through explosive pyroclastic eruptions; however, further exploration is still needed to confirm this interpretation.

Collapse pits, with sharp and nearly vertical walls, like the one in the Marius Hills (shown in a previous post) suggest fairly recent collapse of ancient lava tubes. The chain of pits near Gruithuisen, however, has more subdued topography, and likely formed earlier in the history of the Moon (perhaps more than 1 or 2 billion years ago).

An early mission Commissioning LROC NAC observation, covering a cross-section of the sinuous depression chain. LROC NAC M102443238LR, LRO orbit 272, July 17, 2009; incidence angle 77.85° at 1.54 meters resolution, from 155.56 km over 35.47°N, 316.56°E [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Intact lava tubes have long been thought to be important to future exploration. Many have speculated that uncollapsed portions of lava tubes could be used to shield explorers from harmful radiation, as well as provide a relatively warm and stable environment that is buffered from the large temperature variations at the surface.

Many hope that uncollapsed lava tubes will be located near volcanic materials that can be used in construction or energy-generation processes. However, we still have not explored inside any lava tubes on another planet, though many engineers and scientists are currently working to enable such activities. In the meantime, LROC images combined with other data sets, can be used to search for additional lava tube candidates.

Explore today's tadpole-shaped vent in more detail: LROC NAC M1103837710.

Continue Reading about this fascinating lava tube candidate and the sinuous pit chain, or explore the Sulpicius Gallus vent and Orientale Basin vent in more detail.

Even more to explore:

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:

Monday, August 25, 2014

Add 'sparking' in PSRs to the space weathering zoo

University of New Hampshire (UNH) scientists propose the addition of "sparking"  to cosmic rays and micrometeor bombardment as part of the relentless space weather gardening always underway within the Moon's permanently shadowed regions. This illustration shows a PSR undergoing subsurface sparking, to a depth of about 1mm, which ejects vaporized material [UNH/SVS].
Durham (NH) –- The Moon appears to be a tranquil place, but modeling done by University of New Hampshire and NASA scientists suggests that, over the eons, periodic storms of solar energetic particles may have significantly altered the properties of regolith in the Moon’s coldest craters through the process of "sparking" —a finding that could change our understanding of the evolution of planetary surfaces in the solar system.

The study, published recently in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets, proposes that high-energy particles from uncommon, large solar storms penetrate the Moon’s frigid, polar regions and electrically charges the regolith. The charging may create sparking, or an electrostatic breakdown, and this “breakdown weathering” process has possibly changed the nature of the Moon’s regolith within its permanently shadowed regions, or "PSR's," which may be more active than previously thought.

“Decoding the history recorded within these cold, dark craters requires understanding what processes affect their regolith,” says Andrew Jordan of the UNH Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, lead author of the paper. 

“To that end, we built a computer model to estimate how high-energy particles detected by the CRaTER (Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation) instrument, on board LRO can create significant electric fields in the top layer of lunar regolith,” Jordan wrote.

The scientists also used data from the Electron, Proton, and Alpha Monitor (EPAM) on the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE).

CRaTER, which is led by scientists from UNH, and EPAM both detect high-energy particles, including solar energetic particles (SEPs). SEPs, after being created by solar storms, stream through space and bombard the Moon. These particles can build up electric charges faster than the regolith can dissipate them and may cause sparking, particularly in the polar cold of permanently shadowed regions—unique lunar sites as cold as minus 240 degrees Celsius and known to contain water ice. 

The record cold at Hermite (108 km; 86.16°N, 266.68°E), straddling the 85 parallel and 270th meridian, host significant zones in permanent shadow, including permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) along it's southern wall and floor (left) the host the lowest temperatures yet recorded in the solar system, 24°K. LROC Quickmap, 250 meter resolution, orthographic projection of the Moon's north pole and vicinity [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Says Jordan, “Sparking is a process in which electrons, released from the regolith grains by strong electric fields, race through the material so quickly that they vaporize little channels.” Repeated sparking with each large solar storm could gradually grow these channels large enough to fragment the grains, disintegrating the regolith into smaller particles of distinct minerals, Jordan and colleagues hypothesize.

The next phase of this research will involve investigating whether other instruments aboard LRO could detect evidence for sparking in lunar regolith, as well as improving the model to better understand the process and its consequences.

“If breakdown weathering occurs on the moon, then it has important implications for our understanding of the evolution of planetary surfaces in the solar system, especially in extremely cold regions that are exposed to harsh radiation from space,” says coauthor Timothy Stubbs of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Striped pyroclastic vent in Sinus Aestuum

Dark mantle deposits decorate a crater wall. Slowly pulled downhill by gravity, the volcanic glasses that compose these stripes where formed during explosive volcanic eruptions on the Moon. 1130 meter-wide field of view from LROC NAC observation M1101259688L, LRO orbit 14524, September 2, 2012; low incidence 17.83° angle, 97 cm resolution from 117.17 km over 8.26°N 352.18°E [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Aaron Boyd
LROC News System

Today's Featured Image location is in southern Sinus Aestuum.

Low reflectance pyroclastic material flowed downslope (NE) due to mass wasting in this crater, and high reflectance fresh ray material from small young craters dot the streaks.

The high reflectance material from small craters on top of the pyroclastics indicate that the pyroclastic deposit is relatively thin, because the excavated material is from a maximum of about 0.2 crater radii below the surface.

Striped slides of pyroclastic-sourced granular flow, darker material eroding back into its likely source, a "striped crater," a vent north of Schroter T in Sinus Aestuum, east of Copernicus. A 4675 meter-wide-wide field of view from LROC NAC observation M1101259688L, LRO orbit 14524, September 2, 2012; low incidence 17.83° angle, 97 cm resolution from 117.17 km over 8.26°N 352.18°E [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
In addition to the thickness of the deposit, scientists can also tell that this deposit is most likely discontinuous by observing the streaks in the larger crater. If there was a continuous blanket of material on the surface, the dark mantle material would not form streaks, but a sheet of dark material as it is eroded away.

Schroter T (3.96 km; 7.03°N, 352°E) is the largest of the triplet craters in a "snowman" formation at lower center in this 37 km field of view centered near 7.72°N, 352°E. The energetic creation of Copernicus nearby left its mark on the pyroclastic material, Some high places seem to have been sheered off, leaving dark chevrons pointing away from that direction.  LROC Wide Angle Camera (WAC) monochrome (604 nm) observation M160003304CE, LRO orbit 9713, May 14, 2011; 48.97° incidence, 54.53 meters resolution from 38.89 km [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Dark mantle deposits (DMDs) on the Moon are composed of red, green, orange, and black glasses and crystals that were formed during strombolian or vulcanian eruptions. Sinus Aestuum is littered with dark mantle deposits, showing there were many different vents that were sending magma aloft.

The striped walls of the pyroclastic vent (arrow, 7.716°N, 352.062°E), in the dark terrains east-southeast of Copernicus, disappear into the long shadows of a complex topography, in the light of sunrise. A roughly 120 km-wide field of view from a distilled LROC WAC mosaic of sequential monochrome  (643 nm) observations swept up December 15, 2010; 77° incidence, resolution 63.3 meters from 45 km [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University]. 
The crater in which we see the dark streaks in the Featured Image could have been the source for the streaks; a piece of evidence for the crater being a vent is its irregular shape, but without further surface investigation (perhaps by humans one day) that question can not be answered for certain.

The small vent in Sinus Aestuum (arrow), 370 km east-southeast of the central peaks of Copernicus, is part of the pyroclastic fields highly visible even in modest binoculars, because of their relative low reflectivity. The area more to the southeast bear Gambart is the site of the Moon's highest concentration of radioactive isotopes, of thorium and less common uranium for example. A roughly 900 km-wide view from the LROC Lunaserv web-mapping program, Test RGB overlay (See "Resolved Hapke Parameter Maps") LROC WAC global mosaic [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
See how many dark mantle deposits you can find in the full NAC frame HERE.

Related Posts:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Eagleworks: NASA engineering's 'Manhattan Project'

NASA Eagleworks Microwave Thruster: Prototype microwave thruster produced by NASA "Eagleworks" Advanced Propulsion Research at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Dr. Harold J. White and his team, together with the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins, began work on this powerful, highly useful technology in 2011. "A working microwave thruster would radically cut the cost of satellites and space stations and extend their working life, drive a plethora of suddenly affordable deep-space missions, and take astronauts to Mars in days to weeks rather than months" [NASA/JSC].
Karim Immanuel Chemial
Circus Bazaar

In 2011 the NASA engineering directorate created the Advanced propulsion team unofficially known as the “Eagleworks.”

This rock star team of scientists and engineers are headed by Harold ‘Sonny’ White, engineer and applied physicist of NASA’s propulsion team at the Johnson Space Center. The goal of the Eagleworks was to push the boundaries of accepted design and find new and novel ways for humanity to travel practically into and through space.

As the Advanced Propulsion Team Lead for the NASA Engineering Directorate, Harold White has several revolutionary projects in progress to massively advance current space propulsion systems. And in a remarkably short period of time Dr Whites team has made significant advances in our understanding and physical application of propulsion systems as well as developing two new concepts in human space propulsion including a controversial prototype.

Read the article in full, HERE.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Frozen motion at Harbhebi J

The scoured floor of Harkhebi J (43.1 km; 37.418°N, 103.356°E), near the young crater Giordano Bruno. Ejecta from Giordano Bruno flowed across the surface, leaving a record for us today. A 1570 meter-wide field of view from LROC NAC observation M1128791817L, LRO orbit 18492, July 18, 2013; incidence 60.58° resolution 1.35 meters, from 103.62 km over 37.52°N, 103.7°E [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Aaron Boyd
LROC News System

Giordano Bruno, the 22 km crater whose ejecta drapes Harkhebi J, is at most 10 million years old. Because these features are so young, they are preserved almost as though the ejecta ray landed here yesterday.

The Featured Image location is approximately 5 crater radii (55 km) away from the impact center, but the effects of the original impact are clearly visible; the momentum from the ejecta is visible as striations in the western half of the image.

The ejecta  was traveling upwards of 600 km/hr when it began to etch the surface, and when the materials finally came to rest, the evidence of the original motion was frozen in time.

Scaled and corrected 4.912 km-wide field of view from LROC NAC observation M1128791817L, July 18, 2013. View the full-resolution mosaic HERE [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Many patterns in ejecta from Giordano Bruno crater can be seen throughout the full NAC frame. These varied beautiful patterns relate to ejecta velocity and angle, as well as the material properties of the target.

Context for the LROC Featured Image released August 20, 2014. Footprint of LROC NAC observation M1128791817L. LROC WAC observation M121532675C, LRO orbit 3044, February 23, 2010; incidence 49.3° at 76 meters resolution, from 54 km [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
What would blocky ejecta look like? What would fine granular ejecta look like? The blocky ejecta would pepper the ground with secondary craters, while the granular ejecta would blast the existing surface smooth and flow like an avalanche

View full-resolution LROC NAC mosaic, HERE.

Related Posts:

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Littered wrinkle ridge in west Mare Nubium

Portion of a wrinkle ridge found in Mare Nubium.  The crest and side of the ridge is lined with high reflectance boulders, likely eroded from the fractured basalts that make up the ridge. 2.4 km wide field of view from LROC NAC mosaic M1144863959LR, LRO orbit 20752, January 20, 2014; 46.33° incidence, resolution 83 cm, from 80.7 km over 19.5°S, 349.04°E [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Raquel Nuno
LROC News System

Wrinkle ridges on the Moon are positive-relief tectonic features found predominately in mare, although some even occur inside craters.

Tectonic forces that created the wrinkle ridges were caused by the sinking of high density basalts that poured over the crust (lower density) during the formation of the maria.

In general this sinking stretched the crust on the margins of the maria, forming graben, and compressed the rock in the center of the maria, forming wrinkle ridges. 

The opening image shows a portion of a wrinkle ridge located in Mare Nubium. The slope of this ridge is littered with boulders, which have higher reflectance than the surrounding material. Where do these boulders come from?

Corrected mosaic of 20000 lines by 10000 samples (of 52224 by 5000 x 2), both the left and right camera frames from LROC NAC observation M1144863959LR, January 20, 2014; from 80.7 km over 19.5°S, 349.04°E [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
They were likely eroded from the fragmented basalt by seismic events from nearby impacts. The bedrock (mare) was pre-fractured during the formation of the wrinkle ridge, thus the boulders' size and shape likely represents these small scale internal fracture patterns. The ridge is still eroding today! New boulders will erode out of the edge of the ridge until there is no more ridge to erode, while the boulders will be turned to dust by micrometeorite bombardment.

Accepted nomenclature of features of the western portion of Mare Nubium. The arrow designates the location on a prominent wrinkle ridge shown at high-resolution in LROC NAC mosaic M1144863959LR. The field of view is, in turn, a mosaic of LROC Wide Angle Camera (WAC)  monochrome (604 nm) observations (see the full-size WAC mosaic, with inset, HERE) swept up over three sequential orbital passes June 11, 2011, incidence 78.4° at 61.8 meters resolution, from 45.3 km [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Explore the fill-resolution LROC Narrow Angle Camera mosaic HERE.

Related Posts:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Complimentary craters, south of Maclear

South of Maclear in northwest Mare Tranquillitatis, two complimentary craters of very similar location, size and origin, but additionally of widely different ages. The relentless bombardment of small debris "gardens" the lunar surface at an average rate of 3 mm every 2 million years. In addition to the nearly billion year long cycle of cosmic ray dark-reddening, "space weathering" ages, or "optically matures" the lunar surface at a predictable rate, adding to crater counts and super-positioning another useful tool to the craft of dating lunar features from a distance. LROC NAC observation M131515002R, LRO orbit 4515, June 18, 2010; 79.75° sunrise incidence angle, resolution 85 cm from 40.68 km over 9.09°N, 20.14°E [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Raquel Nuno
LROC News System

There are several distinguishing properties of craters that help lunar scientists determine their ages. As craters get older their appearance changes through exposure to solar wind bombardment and other impacts (collectively called space weathering), and even gravity has an effect.

Effects of the solar wind lower the reflectance of the surface; so regolith (soil) that was excavated by recent impacts has higher reflectance than the background surface, this is why small young craters have visible crater rays. New impacts pulverize rocks that were ejected during the formation of an older crater and disturb the shape by causing moonquakes. Also, gravity works to alter the shape of a crater by pulling material down its walls in a process called slumping, this causes craters to have a smoother appearance.

1.69 km field of view from LROC NAC Commissioning observation M106748283R, LRO orbit 873, September 5, 2009; 29.84 low-angle incidence, resolution 1.17 meters from 133.64 km over 9.82°N, 20.15°E [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Today's Featured Image showcases two similarly sized adjacent craters (each ~500 m in diameter) located in Mare Tranquillitatis (see WAC context image below) with very different appearances. The area surrounding the top crater is littered with boulders in all directions. Wheras the more southerly crater has only a few rocks near its rim. Where did the boulders come from in the first place? And did the lower crater originally have boulders?

Locating two co-located 500 meter "complimentary craters" (arrow) good for comparing rates of general space weathering, in west-northwest Mare Tranquillitatis. LROC Wide Angle Camera (WAC) monochrome (566 nm) observation M131514941C, captured simultaneous with the NAC observation opportunity shown in the Featured Image at the top of this post. LRO orbit 4515, June 18, 2010; 79.75° incidence, resolution 57.7 meters from 40.72 km over 10.17°N, 20.14°E [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Since the mare basalt formed from layers of lava that hardened into solid rock, it is likely the boulders are coherent fragments of those thick layers (a few to tens of meters thick) that were broken up and ejected during the impact event. Since these two craters are so close and both formed in the mare it is very likely that the lower crater also had a large grouping of boulders in its ejecta field. The dissimilarity between these two craters is most likely due to age difference. Over time (perhaps a couple of billion years) the original boulders around the lower crater were slowly ground down by micro-meteorite bombardment - think of this process as cosmic sand-blasting! The boulders around the younger crater (top) have not had time to be pulverized by other impacts, but stick around for a billion years and you can watch these boulders slowly disappear!

Explore the full resolution NAC HERE.

Related Posts:

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Dark Halo "Patch" west of Neper D

A roughly 470 meter wide, 560 meter long, unusually large and cohesive fan of dark halo ejecta from an unnamed but freshly prominent crater in the Neper group, southwest of Mare Marginis. 1020 meter-wide field of view from LROC NAC observation M1136029635L, LRO orbit 19510, October 10, 2013; 32.5° incidence, resolution 1.17 meters from 116.96 km over 8.73°N, 79.36°E [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Hiroyuki Sato
LROC News System

Today's Featured Image highlights an odd shape, or texture in impact ejecta. An unnamed, approximately 600 meter-wide fresh crater on a relatively high, far older crater rim, between Mare Marginis and Mare Undarum (9.5122°N, 79.40242°E) hosts teardrop-shaped low reflectance patches in its ejecta, northwest of the crater,

The larger teardrop patch in the opening picture has a sharp boundary along its western edge, perhaps implying a partially elevated surface relative to the surrounding high-reflectance ejecta.

4 km-wide field of view from LROC NAC observation M1136029635L, October 10, 2013 [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Note the faint high-reflectance ray overlying this patch, indicating that the low reflectance patch was emplaced before the completion of the impact event. Similar dark patches that are smaller and less pronounced are found at the top of the opening image.

How were these peculiar dark patches formed? If these patches are elevated, they could represent preexisting flat dark mounds that were swept by the saltating ejecta materials. Or the excavation of low-reflectance materials by the impact could have been thrown out in one direction and resulting in this unusual patch of ground. If, on the other hand, the patches are topographic lows rather than elevated, these depressions could have simply been shielded as the ejecta passed overhead. It is also possible that the topography of the rim controlled the direction of the outthrown ejecta such that there were "no ejecta" zones that resulted in the dark patches.

Fifty kilometer-wide field of view of the complex terrain southwest of Mare Marginis, west of Neper and Neper D. The unusually cohesive "fan" of apparent dark halo material from the unnamed relatively fresh 600 meter crater is marked at 9.5122°N, 79.40242°E (arrow) and may indicate the presence of now-buried optically mature material widely distributed in the area. The circle southwest of Neper D is a patch of isolated mare material bright in Clementine iron oxide surveys, often indicative of cryptomare.  Crater counts might eventually determine whether its age and whether or not this area is consistent with Mare Marginis or ejecta from the Crisium impact, or something much older. LROC WAC global 100 meter mosaic over LOLA laser altimetry [NASA/GSFC/ASU/USGS].
High resolution topography would really help unravel this mystery! NAC to the rescue! The LROC targeted this area for upcoming NAC stereo pairs from which meter-scale topography will be extracted. In a few months, we will post the topography and will see if we solved the mystery!

Explore this peculiar dark patch and surrounding terrain in the following full NAC frame, HERE.

Related Posts:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Fractures and boulders on the floor of De Forest

Fractured impact melt left the interior of De Forest crater (56.25 km; 76.94°S, 196.67°E) lined with boulders. 665 meter-wide field of view from LROC NAC observation M125650563L, 665 meter-wide field of view from LRO orbit 3650, April 11, 2010; 78.87° incidence angle, resolution 57 cm from 55.16 km over 77.1°S, 197.94°E [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Hiroyuki Sato
LROC News System

Today's Featured Image highlights a portion of the interior of De Forest crater (56.25 km; 76.94°S, 196.67°E), which is located inside the South Pole–Aitken basin.

The cavity of De Forest crater exhibits prominent terraces of collapsed materials surrounding the central peak (see context imagery following).

The topographic low, east of the central peak, was largely coated with hot impact melt which formed a hard crust as it cooled; a portion of this melt is seen in the opening image. 

Context view of De Forest crater (56.25 km; 76.94°S, 196.67°E) consisting of LROC WAC monochrome mosaic (100 m/pix) overlain with colorized WAC stereo DTM (GLD100, Scholten et al., 2012). View centered on 76.92°S, 197.51°E. Footprint of LROC NAC observation M125650563L, April 11, 2010, outlined in blue, source of high-resolution view of the area designated with a yellow arrow (LROC Featured Image released August 5, 2014) [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University]. 
Much of the area of the opening image is covered by numerous boulders, some of which are up to approximately 15 meters across.

The smooth surface extending in lower-left to upper-right is impact melt that cooled to form solid rock, and is now fractured in regular patterns along the edge. Impact melt that was splashed on the crater's walls and its central peak formed a coating that quickly cooled to solid rock.

On the true "backside" of the Moon, De Forest (right) is situated well inside South Pole-Aitken impact basin, between Antoniadi (upper left, near horizon), host of the Moon's lowest elevation (-9094 meters) and Shackleton (not pictured), host of the Moon's south pole. HDTV still from Japan's lunar orbiter Kaguya (SELENE-1) in 2008 [JAXA/NHK/SELENE].
Later, it is likely that nearby moonquakes caused these brittle rock coatings to fracture, providing the source of boulders we now see on the lower reaches of the crater floor.

De Forest's position in the far south Farside is an area hosting Permanently Shadowed Regions (PSR's). The neutron detection experiment on-board LRO (LEND) has built up signatures consistent with cold-trapped volatiles, like water ice, in the vicinity. Image from Science Visualization Studio tour of SPA, larger image HERE [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University/DLR/SVS]. 
As you can see in the following full NAC frame, an enormous number of similar boulders are found along the smooth melt deposits on the floor of De Forest crater. 

Explore this boulder-rich crater in the full NAC frame, HERE.

Related Posts:

Friday, August 1, 2014

A tortuous path in Posidonius

This may look like a work of abstract art, but in reality, it's for science! This colorful image is an LROC slope map of the northwestern portion of the floor of Posidonius crater. Warmer colors indicate steeper slopes, whereas cooler colors are shallower slopes. A rille winds its way across the floor and flows along a southerly course, diverging from its path along the crater rim. A tributary rille can be seen joining the main rille at the bottom center. Image width is approximately 5.5 km. North is up [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
H. Meyer
LROC News System

Sinuous rilles, such as the one above, form through the flow of hot, turbulent lava.

Rilles can be found in many locations across the lunar surface and two very different mechanisms are generally thought to form them.

Mechanical erosion refers to the physical removal of material by the lava flow, similar to how rivers erode channels on Earth.

Alternately, some lavas are so hot that they partially melt the substrate, and deepen the channel through time. These processes on there own would both result in downcutting into the surface, but they were often simultaneously working to reshape the lunar surface.

Posidonius (95 km, 31.878°N, 29.991°E) exhibits several rilles of differing types, seen below (linear and sinuous).

The vicinity of the northwest quadrant of Posidonius (95 km, 31.878°N, 29.991°E) has to have been imaged at high-resolution from more than one angle to enable interferometric determinations and to create the LROC NAC-derived Digital Terrain Models. Above the same general vicinity was imaged with spacecraft (and camera) slewed 59.03° from orbital nadir. LROC NAC observation M1096379115L, LRO orbit 13941, July 8, 2012; 82.31° sunset incidence, resolution 4 meters, from 145.49 km over 32.37°N, 17.41°E [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Posidonius is a 95 km diameter crater on the northeastern margin of Mare Serenitatis. The floor of Posidonius exhibits a number of interesting geologic features. In the western portion of the floor, the sinuous rille from Today’s Featured Image winds its way through smooth plains that partially bury the crater wall.

LROC NAC M1098658474R, LRO orbit 14260, August 3, 2012; 53.15° incidence angle, resolution 1.45 meters, from 143.74 km over 32.04°N, 28.43°E [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
In the eastern portion, the floor is fractured and tilted, similar to craters like Karpinskiy, creating a cliff that drops ~ 1 km to the smooth floor. When compared to the highlands, Posidonius has few craters superposed on its floor, like Posidonius A (11 km) & C (3.5 km), indicating that the floor of this crater is younger.

Huge reduction of the full-width mosaic of both the left and right frames from LROC NAC  oblique observation M1096379115L. Area shown at full resolution further above, boxed in white [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Check out the full slope map HERE.

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