The Crust of the Moon as Seen by GRAIL

Mark A. Wieczorek, Gregory A. Neumann, Francis Nimmo, Walter S. Kiefer, G. Jeffrey Taylor, H. Jay Melosh, Roger J. Phillips, Sean C. Solomon, Jeffrey C. Andrews-Hanna, Sami W. Asmar, Alexander S. Konopliv, Frank G. Lemoine, David E. Smith, Michael M. Watkins, James G. Williams, and Maria T. Zuber

Science 339, 671-675, 2013.

Abstract: High-resolution gravity data obtained from the dual Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft show that the bulk density of the Moon’s highlands crust is 2550 kilograms per cubic meter, substantially lower than generally assumed. When combined with remote sensing and sample data, this density implies an average crustal porosity of 12% to depths of at least a few kilometers. Lateral variations in crustal porosity correlate with the largest impact basins, whereas lateral variations in crustal density correlate with crustal composition. The low-bulk crustal density allows construction of a global crustal thickness model that satisfies the Apollo seismic constraints, and with an average crustal thickness between 34 and 43 kilometers, the bulk refractory element composition of the Moon is not required to be enriched with respect to that of Earth.

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Walter S. Kiefer,   kiefer@lpi.usra.edu