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Mini-RF and LROC Observations of Layering in Mare Craters

Angela Stickle
Delivered As: 
Abstract Text: 

The lunar maria cover approximately 17% of the Moon’s surface. Discerning discrete subsurface layers in the mare provides some constraints on thickness and volume estimates of mare volcanism. Multiple types of data and measurement techniques allow probing the subsurface and provide insights into these layers, including detailed examination of impact craters, mare pits and sinuous rilles, and radar sounders. Unfortunately, radar sounding includes many uncertainties about the material properties of the lunar surface that may influence estimates of layer depth and thickness. Because they distribute material from depth onto the surface, detailed examination of impact ejecta blankets provides a reliable way to examine deeper material using orbital instruments such as cameras, spectrometers, or imaging radars. Here, we utilize Miniature Radio Frequency (Mini-RF) data to investigate the scattering characteristics of ejecta blankets of young lunar craters. We use Circular Polarization Ratio (CPR) information from twenty-two young, fresh lunar craters to examine how the scattering behavior changes as a function of radius from the crater rim. Impact craters are the dominant weathering process on the Moon, and these studies provide important information about the ejecta emplacement process and ejecta source material on the lunar surface.

Observations across a range of crater size and relative ages exhibit significant diversity within mare regions. Five of the examined craters exhibit profiles with no shelf of constant CPR near the crater rim; behaving as expected, with the magnitude of the CPR declining steeply from the crater rim to the lunar background levels. Comparing these CPR profiles with LROC imagery shows that the magnitude of the CPR may be an indication of crater degradation state; this may manifest differently at radar compared to optical wavelengths. Comparisons of radar and optical data also suggest relationships between subsurface stratigraphy and structure in the mare and the block size of the material found within the ejecta blanket. Of the examined craters, twelve have shelves of approximately constant CPR as well as discrete layers outcropping in the subsurface, and nine fall along a trend line when comparing shelf-width with thickness of subsurface layers. These observations suggest that surface CPR measurements may be used to identify near-surface layering. Here, we use ejected material to probe the subsurface, allowing observations of near-surface stratigraphy that may be otherwise hidden by layers higher from remote observations.

David A. Kring
SSERVI Identifier: 

Recognizing that science and human exploration are mutually enabling, NASA created the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) to address basic and applied scientific questions fundamental to understanding the Moon, Near Earth Asteroids, the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos, and the near space environments of these target bodies. As a virtual institute, SSERVI funds investigators at a broad range of domestic institutions, bringing them together along with international partners via virtual technology to enable new scientific efforts."