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The Distribution and Ages of Regional Lithologies in the Lunar Maria


Soderblom, Laurence Albert (1970) The Distribution and Ages of Regional Lithologies in the Lunar Maria. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/TB2T-BJ80.


A research program was designed (1) to map regional lithological units of the lunar surface based on measurements of spatial variations in spectral reflectance, and, (2) to establish the sequence of the formation of such lithological units from measurements of the accumulated affects of impacting bodies.

Spectral reflectance data were obtained by scanning luminance variations over the lunar surface at three wavelengths (0.4µ, 0.52µ, and 0.7µ). These luminance measurements were reduced to normalized spectral reflectance values relative to a standard area in More Serenitotis. The spectral type of each lunar area was identified from the shape of its reflectance spectrum. From these data lithological units or regions of constant color were identified. The maria fall into two major spectral classes: circular moria like More Serenitotis contain S-type or red material and thin, irregular, expansive maria like Mare Tranquillitatis contain T-type or blue material. Four distinct subtypes of S-type reflectances and two of T-type reflectances exist. As these six subtypes occur in a number of lunar regions, it is concluded that they represent specific types of material rather than some homologous set of a few end members.

The relative ages or sequence of formation of these more units were established from measurements of the accumulated impacts which have occurred since more formation. A model was developed which relates the integrated flux of particles which hove impacted a surface to the distribution of craters as functions of size and shape. Erosion of craters is caused chiefly by small bodies which produce negligible individual changes in crater shape. Hence the shape of a crater can be used to estimate the total number of small impacts that have occurred since the crater was formed. Relative ages of a surface can then be obtained from measurements of the slopes of the walls of the oldest craters formed on the surface. The results show that different maria and regions within them were emplaced at different times. An approximate absolute time scale was derived from Apollo 11 crystallization ages under an assumption of a constant rote of impacting for the last 4 x 10^9 yrs. Assuming, constant flux, the period of mare formation lasted from over 4 x 10^9 yrs to about 1.5 x 10^9 yrs ago.

A synthesis of the results of relative age measurements and of spectral reflectance mapping shows that (1) the formation of the lunar maria occurred in three stages; material of only one spectral type was deposited in each stage, (2) two distinct kinds of maria exist, each type distinguished by morphology, structure, gravity anomalies, time of formation, and spectral reflectance type, and (3) individual maria have complicated histories; they contain a variety of lithic units emplaced at different times.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Planetary Science and Geophysics, Soderblom, Moon, Lunar, Mare, Cratering, Craters
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Planetary Sciences
Minor Option:Geophysics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Murray, Bruce C. (advisor)
  • Shoemaker, Eugene Merle (advisor)
Thesis Committee:
  • Unknown, Unknown
Defense Date:28 April 1970
Non-Caltech Author Email:lsoderblom (AT)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NASANGL 05-002-003
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:09132013-144554154
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:7955
Deposited On:13 Sep 2013 22:12
Last Modified:09 Nov 2022 19:20

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