Compositional and temporal investigation of exposed lunar basalts in the Mare Imbrium region

Roberto Bugiolacchi and John Guest

Icarus, Volume 197, Issue 1. pp. 1-18. August 2009




This paper presents an updated stratigraphical and compositional study of the exposed maria within the Imbrium basin on the Moon. Clementine multispectral data were employed to derive TiO2 and FeO wt% abundance estimates of potentially distinct basaltic flows. Additionally, NASA Lunar Orbiter images were used to estimate flow ages using crater count statistics. Mare Imbrium shows evidence of a complex suite of low to high-Ti basaltic lava units infilling the basin over an 800 million year timescale. More than a third (37%) of identified mare basalts were found to contain 1 3 wt% TiO2. Two other major mare lithological units (representing about 25% of the surface each) show TiO2 values between 3 5 and 7 9 wt%. The dominant fraction (55%) of the sampled maria contain FeO between 16 and 18 wt%, followed by 27% of maria having 18 20 wt% and the remaining 18%, 14 16 wt% FeO. A crater frequency count (for diameters >500 m) shows that in three quarters of the sampled mare crater counts range between 3.5 and 5.5×10 per km2, which translates, according to a lunar cratering model chronology, into estimated emplacement ages between 3.3 and 2.5 Ga. A compositional convergence trend between the variations of iron and titanium oxides was identified, in particular for materials with TiO2 and FeO content broadly above 5 and 17 wt%, respectively, suggesting a related petrogenesis and evolution. According to these findings, three major periods of mare infill are exposed in the Imbrium basin; despite each period showing a range of basaltic compositions (classified according to their TiO2 content), it is apparent that, at least within these local geological settings, the igneous petrogenesis generally evolved through time towards more TiO2- and FeO-rich melts.