Geologic Observations and Numerical Modeling: A Combined Approach to Understanding Crater and Basin Formation and Structure

Monday, 15 December 2014
Ross W. K. Potter1,2 and James W Head III2, (1)Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, TX, United States, (2)Brown University, Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences, Providence, RI, United States
Impact cratering is a fundamental geological process throughout the Solar System. The Moon is an ideal location to document the impact cratering process due to the number and excellent state of preservation of large craters and basins, and the wide range of geological, geophysical, topographic, mineralogic, remote sensing and returned sample data. Despite the number and excellent preservation state of many large complex craters and basins, their formation and the origin of their structural features and the stages in their evolution remain contentious. To more comprehensively document the final stage of lunar impact basin formation, we have compiled detailed topographic, geological and mineralogic maps of several type examples of peak-ring and multi-ring basins, including the Orientale basin. These data include the mineralogic characteristics of basin ring structures and assist in the interpretation of the target stratigraphy, and the depth of origin of basin rings. Data for the current structure of basins is compared to numerical model outputs of basin-forming impacts, which track formation to the conclusion of dynamic processes (2 to 3 hours after impact). We use the Orientale basin as an example and provide combined correlations and interpretations that assign rings to various stages in the numerical models, and compare these candidates to crustal stratigraphy, with the ultimate aim of producing a consistent model for large crater/basin formation. The shock physics code iSALE is used to numerically model the basin-scale impacts. Constitutive equations and equations of state for materials analogous to the lunar crust (gabbroic anorthosite) and mantle (dunite) are used. Aspects of the numerically-produced lunar basins (e.g., material distribution and accumulated stress) are compared and contrasted to remote observations and geological maps of the Orientale rings and geological units, including ejecta and impact melt deposits.