Geological Mapping of Impact Melt Deposits at Lunar Complex Craters: New Insights into Morphological Diversity, Distribution and the Cratering Process

Monday, 15 December 2014
Deepak Dhingra, James W Head III and Carle M Pieters, Brown University, Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences, Providence, RI, United States
We have completed high resolution geological mapping of impact melt deposits at the young lunar complex craters (<1 billion years) Copernicus, Jackson and Tycho using data from recent missions. Crater floors being the largest repository of impact melt, we have mapped their morphological diversity expressed in terms of varied surface texture, albedo, character and occurrence of boulder units as well as relative differences in floor elevation. Examples of wall and rim impact melt units and their relation to floor units have also been mapped. Among the distinctive features of these impact melt deposits are: 1) Impact Melt Wave Fronts: These are extensive (sometimes several kilometers in length) and we have documented their occurrence and distribution in different parts of the crater floor at Jackson and Tycho. These features emphasize melt mobility and style of emplacement during the modification stage of the craters. 2) Variations in Floor Elevations: Spatially extensive and coherent sections of crater floors have different elevations at all the three craters. The observed elevation differences could be caused by subsidence due to cooling of melt and/or structural failure, together with a contribution from regional slope. 3) Melt-Covered Megablocks: We also observe large blocks/rock-fragments (megablocks) covered in impact melt, which could be sections of collapsed wall or in some cases, subdued sections of central peaks. 4) Melt-Covered Central Peaks: Impact melt has also been mapped on the central peaks but varies in spatial extent among the craters. The presence of melt on peaks must be taken into account when interpreting peak mineralogy as exposures of deeper crust. 5) Boulder Distribution: Interesting trends are observed in the distribution of boulder units of various sizes; some impact melt units have spatially extensive boulders, while boulder distribution is very scarce in other units on the floor. We interpret these distributions to be influenced by a) the differential collapse of the crater walls during the modification stage, and b) the amount of relative melt volume retained in different parts of the crater floor. These observations provide important documentation of the morphological diversity and better understanding of the emplacement and final distribution of impact melt deposits.