Confirmation of sublunarean voids and thin layering in mare deposits

Mark Robinson, J. W. Ashley, A. K. Boyd, R. V. Wagner, E. J. Speyerer, B. Ray Hawke, H. Hiesinger, C. H. Van Der Bogert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


Typical flow thicknesses of lunar mare basalts were not well constrained in the past, because as craters and rilles age, downslope movement of loose material tends to mix and bury stratigraphy, obscuring the three dimensional nature of the maria. New Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera high resolution images unambiguously reveal thicknesses of mare basalt layers exposed in impact craters, rilles, and steep-walled pits. Pits up to one hundred meters deep present relatively unmodified, near-vertical sections of mare in three cases, and many young impact craters also expose well preserved sections of mare. Oblique views of each pit and many of these craters reveal multiple layers, 3 to 14 m thick, indicating that eruptions typically produced a series of ∼10 m thick flows (or flow lobes) rather than flows many tens to hundreds of meters thick. Additionally, these images unambiguously show that the floors of two pits extend beneath the mare surfaces, thus revealing sublunarean voids of unknown lateral extent. We also document the occurrence of pits that may be expressions of collapse into subsurface voids in non-mare impact melt deposits. These voids are compelling targets for future human and robotic exploration, with potential as temporary shelters, habitations, or geologic museums.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-27
Number of pages10
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • Flow
  • Impact melt
  • Moon
  • Pit
  • Shelter
  • Volcanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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