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The study of the geology of multiring impact basins on the Moon over the past ten years has given us a rudimentary understanding of how these large structures have formed and evolved on the Moon and other bodies. Two-ring basins on the Moon begin to form at diameters of about 300 km; the transition diameter at which multiple (more than two) rings appear is uncertain, but it appears to be between 400 and 500 km in diameter. Inner rings tend to be made up of clusters or aligned segments of massifs and are arranged into a crudely concentric pattern; scarp-like elements may or may not be present. Outer rings are much more scarp-like and massifs are rare to absent.

Basins display textured deposits, interpreted as ejecta, extending roughly an apparent basin radius exterior to the main topographic rim. Ejecta may have various morphologies, ranging from wormy and hummocky deposits to knobby surfaces; the causes of these variations in morphology are not known, but may be related to the energy regime in which the ejecta are deposited. Outside the limits of the textured ejecta are found both fields of satellitic craters (secondaries) and light plains deposits.

Impact melt sheets are observed on the floors of relatively unflooded basins. Samples of impact melts from lunar basins have basaltic major-element chemistry, characterized by K, rare-earth elements (REE), P, and other trace elements of varying concentration (KREEP); ages are between 3.8 and 3.9 Ga. These lithologies cannot be produced through the fusion of known pristine (plutonic) rock types, suggesting the occurrence of unknown lithologies within the Moon. These melts were probably generated at middle to lower crustal levels.

Ejecta compositions, preservation of pre-basin topography, and deposit morphologies all indicate that the excavation cavity of multiring basins is between about 0.4 and 0.6 times the diameter of the apparent crater diameter. Basin depths of excavation can be inferred from the composition of basin ejecta; this evidence strongly suggests that basin excavation was limited to upper crustal levels and that effective excavation was from levels no deeper than about 0.1 times diameter of the excavation cavity.

A variety of mechanisms has been proposed to account for the formation of basin rings but none of them are entirely plausible. Mechanisms can be divided into two broad groups: (1) forcible uplift due to fluidization of the target; (2) concentric, brittle, fracturing and failure of the target, on regional (megaterraces) to global scales (lithospheric fracturing). Most basin rings are spaced at a constant factor on all planets, namely the famous √2 relation, first observed between adjacent rings of the lunar Orientale basin. Because geological evidence supports divergent ring-forming models, it may be that the ring-locating mechanism is different from the ring-forming mechanism. Thus, large-scale crustal foundering (megaterracing) could occur along concentric zones of weakness created by some type of resonant wave mechanism (fluidization and uplift); such immediate crustal adjustment could then be followed by long-term adjustment of the fractured lithosphere.

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