A Topographic Analysis of Lunar Pit Craters Using LOLA

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 4:30 PM
Peter Thaddeus Malinski and Keith A. Milam, Ohio University, Athens, OH, United States
Pit craters have been a recent interest in the impact crater community due to their elusive formational mechanism(s) and their variable morphologies on different bodies. Pit craters have been observed on multiple planetary bodies and currently efforts are underway to characterize these crater types. In this work we focused on finding and evaluating pitted craters and their morphologic habits on the lunar surface to better constrain pit crater formation on a relatively dry body (compared to Mars and Ganymede). The study area ranged across the entire lunar surface from -20 to 50 degree latitudes and included both highland and maria terrains. The diameter range of the crater population evaluated was 20 – 60 km. The diameter range was chosen to include complex crater morphology (minimum diameter ~20 km) but to not include larger impacts (>60 km) to prevent misinterpretation of central regions. An overall population of 1490 craters were evaluated, of which 115 craters were characterized as pit craters. The LOLA data set along with NAC+WAC, Clementine visible imagery were used to locate and assess the pit craters in addition to generated digital elevation models of the craters. Our results show that pitted craters have variable morphologies, where the pitted features could be oblique or linear in shape. Summit and floor pit craters were found in both maria and highland terrain. The Moran index and Chi statistical tests were applied and determined that the population is randomly distributed across the study area. Evaluation of the individual pit craters show that they may potentially have one or more formational mechanisms associated. The statistical tests coupled with the variant morphologies may indicate multiple relations to possible formational mechanisms (volcanic, volatile release, or structural deformation).