Terrestrial analogues for lunar impact melt flows
Lunar impact melt deposits have unique physical properties. They have among the highest observed radar returns at S-Band (12.6 cm wavelength), implying that they are rough at the decimeter scale. However, they are also observed in high-resolution optical imagery to be quite smooth at the meter scale. These characteristics distinguish them from well-studied terrestrial analogues, such as Hawaiian pāhoehoe and ʻaʻā lava flows. The morphology of impact melt deposits can be related to their emplacement conditions, so understanding the origin of these unique surface properties will help to inform us as to the circumstances under which they were formed. In this work, we seek to find a terrestrial analogue for well-preserved lunar impact melt flows by examining fresh lava flows on Earth. We compare the radar return and high-resolution topographic variations of impact melt flows to terrestrial lava flows with a range of surface textures. The lava flows examined in this work range from smooth Hawaiian pāhoehoe to transitional basaltic flows at Craters of the Moon (COTM) National Monument and Preserve in Idaho to rubbly and spiny pāhoehoe-like flows at the recent eruption at Holuhraun in Iceland. The physical properties of lunar impact melt flows appear to differ from those of all the terrestrial lava flows studied in this work. This may be due to (a) differences in post-emplacement modification processes or (b) fundamental differences in the surface texture of the melt flows due to the melts’ unique emplacement and/or cooling environment. Information about the surface properties of lunar impact melt deposits will be critical for future landed missions that wish to sample these materials.
Publication Source (Journal or Book title)
Neish, C., Hamilton, C., Hughes, S., Nawotniak, S., Garry, W., Skok, J., Elphic, R., Schaefer, E., Carter, L., Bandfield, J., Osinski, G., Lim, D., & Heldmann, J. (2017). Terrestrial analogues for lunar impact melt flows. Icarus, 281 (None), 73-89. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2016.08.008