Ages and stratigraphy of lunar mare basalts: A synthesis
Published:March 01, 2011
H. Hiesinger, J.W. Head, III, U. Wolf, R. Jaumann, G. Neukum, 2011. "Ages and stratigraphy of lunar mare basalts: A synthesis", Recent Advances and Current Research Issues in Lunar Stratigraphy, William A. Ambrose, David A. Williams
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The chronology of lunar volcanism is based on radiometric ages determined from Apollo and Luna landing site samples, regional stratigraphic relationships, and crater degradation and size-frequency distribution data for units largely defined prior to the end of the Apollo program. Accurate estimates of mare basalt ages are necessary to place constraints on the duration and the flux of lunar volcanism, as well as on the petrogenesis of lunar mare basalts and their relationship to the thermal evolution of the Moon. Here, we report on ages derived from crater size-frequency distribution measurements for exposed mare basalt units on the lunar nearside hemisphere. Crater size-frequency distribution measurements provide a statistically robust and accurate method to derive absolute model ages of unsampled regions on the Moon and other planetary surfaces. This paper summarizes and synthesizes results from our crater-counting efforts over more than 10 yr. We have dated basalts in Oceanus Procellarum, Imbrium, Serenitatis, Tranquillitatis, Humboldtianum, Australe, Humorum, Nubium, Cognitum, Nectaris, Frigoris, and numerous smaller occurrences like impact craters and sinus and lacus areas. Our investigations show that (1) in the investigated basins, lunar volcanism was active for almost 3 b.y., starting at ~3.9–4.0 b.y. ago and ceasing at ~1.2 b.y. ago, (2) most basalts erupted during the late Imbrian Period at ~3.6–3.8 b.y. ago, (3) significantly fewer basalts were emplaced during the Eratosthenian Period, and (4) basalts of possible Copernican age have been found only in limited areas in Oceanus Procellarum. Our results confirm and extend the general distribution of ages of mare basalt volcanism and further underscore the predominance of older mare basalt ages in the eastern and southern nearside and in patches of maria peripheral to the larger maria, in contrast to the younger basalt ages on the western nearside, i.e., in Oceanus Procellarum. New data from the recent international armada of lunar spacecraft will provide mineralogical, geochemical, morphological, topographic, and age data that will further refine our understanding of the flux of lunar mare basalts and their relation to petrogenetic trends and lunar thermal evolution.