Evaluating Crisium Basin for Future Lunar Sample Dating

Image credit: NASA/JPL/USGS

Although the Moon and Earth likely share a common history of impact cratering and larger basin-forming events, the record of these events on Earthโ€™s surface has been obliterated by active geology, weathering, and life. The absence of these effects on the Moon makes it a geologic time capsule, allowing us to examine its ancient impact history, and by inference, that of Earth. A team led by Kirby Runyon of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory integrated several orbital remote sensing datasets, including data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Moon Mineralogy Mapper, along with Earth-based radar to characterize putative impact melt at Crisium Basin, one of the Moonโ€™s largest impact basins (approximately 556 kilometers in diameter). The authors argue that a crater post-dating the Crisium event, Yerkes Crater, may have excavated otherwise buried impact melt sheet material from the original Crisium basin-forming event. The impact melt material that was uplifted in the central peaks of Yerkes Crater could, therefore, contain a record of the Crisium-forming impact age. This finding could constrain the timing of the late heavy bombardment of impacts affecting the terrestrial planets and moons, which itself may be tied to the origin of life on Earth. Thus, the authors conclude that these peaks should be a high-priority sampling target for future human or robotic missions to the Moon. READ MORE