Magmatic effects of the lunar late heavy bombardment

Linda T. Elkins-Tanton, Bradford H. Hager, Timothy L. Grove

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Large volumes of mare basalts are present on the surface of the moon, located preferentially in large impact basins. Mechanisms relating impact basins and mare basalt eruptions have previously been suggested: lunar impacts removed low-density material that may have inhibited eruption, and created cracks for fluid flow [Icarus 139 (1999) 246], and lunar basins have long been described as catchments for magma (e.g., [Rev. Geophys. Space Phys. 18 (1980) 107] and references therein). We present a new model for melt creation under near side lunar basins that is triggered by the impacts themselves. Magma can be produced in two stages. First, crater excavation depressurizes underlying material such that it may melt in-situ. Second, the cratered lithosphere rises isostatically, warping isotherms at the lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary which may initiate convection, in which adiabatic melting can occur. The first stage produces by far the largest volume of melt, but convective melting can continue for up to 350 Ma. We propose that giant impacts account for a large portion of the volume and longevity of mare basalt volcanism, as well as for several compositional groups, including high alumina, high titanium, KREEP-rich, and picritic magmas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-27
Number of pages11
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 15 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Impact basin
  • Mantle convection
  • Mare basalt
  • Moon
  • Volcanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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