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Magnetic signature of the lunar South Pole-Aitken basin: Character, origin, and age

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Article numberARTN E05001
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>4/05/2012
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue numberE5
Number of pages8
<mark>Original language</mark>English


A new magnetic map of the Moon, based on Lunar Prospector magnetometer observations, sheds light on the origin of the South Pole-Aitken basin (SPA), the largest and oldest of the recognized lunar basins. A set of WNW-trending linear to arcuate magnetic features, evident in both the radial and scalar observations, covers much of a 1000 km wide region centered on the NW portion of SPA. The source bodies are not at the surface because the magnetic features show no first-order correspondence to any surface topographic or structural feature. Patchy mare basalts of possible late Imbrian-age are emplaced within SPA and are inferred to have been emplaced through dikes, directly from mantle sources. We infer that the magnetic features represent dike swarms that served as feeders for these mare basalts, as evident from the location of the Thomson/Mare Ingenii, Van de Graaff, and Leeuwenhoek mare basalts on the two largest magnetic features in the region. Modeling suggests that the dike zone is between 25 and 50 km wide at the surface, and dike magnetization contrasts are in the range of 0.2 A/m. We theorize that the basaltic dikes were emplaced in the lunar crust when a long-lived dynamo was active. Based on pressure, temperature, and stress conditions prevalent in the lunar crust, dikes are expected to be a dominantly subsurface phenomenon, consistent with the observations reported here.