Revisiting the field geology of Taurus–Littrow

H. H. Schmitt, N. E. Petro, R. A. Wells, Mark Robinson, B. P. Weiss, C. M. Mercer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Integration of Apollo 17 field observations and photographs, sample investigations, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera images, Chandrayaan-1 Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) spectra, and Miniature Radio Frequency (Mini-RF) S-band radar images provides new insights into the geology of the valley of Taurus–Littrow on the Moon. Connecting the various remote observations to sample data enables a set of new conclusions to be drawn regarding the geological evolution of the valley. Structural considerations and published and recalculated 40Ar/39Ar analyses of samples from the North Massif and the Sculptured Hills indicate that the Crisium basin formed about 3.93 Ga; the Serenitatis basin about 3.82 Ga; and the Imbrium basin no earlier than 3.82 Ga and no later than the average of 3.72 Ga for 33 age dates from samples of the valley's mare basalts. Strong evidence continues to support the conclusion of others (Lucchitta, 1972; Spudis et al., 2011; Fassett et al., 2012) that the Sculptured Hills physiographic unit consists of Imbrium ejecta. Interpretation of M3 spectral data and Apollo 17 samples indicate that rock units of the Sculptured Hills consist of a largely coherent, Mg-suite pluton. LROC NAC stereo images and Mini-RF data indicate the presence of several exposed pyroclastic fissures across the Sculptured Hills. Rim boulders at Camelot Crater constitute nearly in situ wall rocks of that crater rather than ejecta and provide an opportunity for investigations of remanent magnetic field orientation at the time of the eruption of late mare basalt lavas in the valley. Paleomagnetic field orientation information also may be obtained relative to melt-breccia contacts in North Massif boulders that suggest original horizontal orientations. LROC images indicate the existence of two temporally separate light mantle avalanche deposits. The origin, potential flow mechanisms, and geology of the youngest avalanche from the South Massif have been clarified. The existence of two distinct light mantle avalanches raises doubt about the association of either light mantle avalanche with secondary impacts related to the Tycho impact event. Alternatively, the Lee-Lincoln thrust fault appears to have triggered the second light mantle avalanche between 70 and 110 Ma. A simple structural analysis shows that this thrust fault dips 20–25° to the southwest where it crosses the North Massif and to the west where it crosses the valley floor. Mini-RF data reveal a line of reduced reflections roughly perpendicular to contours on the North Massif about 3 km to the east of the Lee-Lincoln fault. Although this line is possibly an older ancillary fault, LROC NAC stereo images indicate that it may be best explained as a pyroclastic fissure. A debris flow of dark, apparent pyroclastic ash lies below the southeast end of the potential fissure. Finally, young lunar impact glass sample 70019 has been precisely located within LROC NAC images and oriented for the first time using 60 mm (f.l.) sample documentation photographs. Sample 70019 can now be employed in lunar paleomagnetic field orientation studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2-33
Number of pages32
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • Impact processes
  • Magnetic fields
  • Moon, surface
  • Taurus–Littrow
  • Volcanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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