Outcrops on lunar crater rims: Implications for rim construction mechanisms, ejecta volumes and excavation depths



The raised rims of impact craters consist of ejecta deposited onto structurally uplifted target rocks. Although it is commonly accepted that ejecta makes up 50–75% of the total rim height, no previous measurements on well-preserved, naturally occurring impact craters exist. Relying on data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, I report the first direct measurements of the rim-forming constituents from 21 lunar craters ranging in diameter from 2.2 km to 45 km. Results show that the ejecta deposit accounts for no more than ~20% of rim relief, and structural uplift is the primary mechanism of rim development in both simple and complex craters. Thick, quasi-horizontal outcrops of coherent bedrock indicate that this uplift is the result of subsurface injection of debris or melt into the surrounding target rocks. Crater growth, at least during the latest portion of the excavation stage, therefore, proceeds mainly through injection—rather than ejection—of material. These results suggest that ejecta volumes and excavation depths may be factors of 3 to 4 less than previously considered.