Characterization of space weathering from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera ultraviolet observations of the Moon



We investigate the effects of space weathering at ultraviolet wavelengths using a near-global seven-band (321–689 nm) mosaic from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) Wide Angle Camera (WAC). We confirm that for moderate- to high-iron compositions (≳ 5 wt % FeO), the steeply positive UV slope at wavelengths <415 nm shallows with increasing exposure to space weathering. We measure these differences in LROC WAC data as variations in the 321/415 nm ratio, which has low values for fresh craters in the mare and moderate-iron highlands. For low-iron highland compositions, the break in slope occurs at shorter wavelengths, and it is instead the 321/360 nm ratio that increases with exposure to the space-weathering environment, whereas the 321/415 nm ratio appears to be largely controlled by the degree of shock experienced during the impact. The effects of shock may be more important at highland craters because modest shock pressures result in the solid-state transformation of plagioclase to its glass equivalent, maskelynite, and can help distinguish between primary shocked ejecta and locally exposed fresh material in rays. While all of the “fresh” craters we examined have UV spectral properties consistent with substantial alteration due to space weathering, the UV spectra of lunar swirls (magnetically shielded from the solar wind) are consistent with exposure of immature, crystalline material. Together these results suggest that lunar space weathering is dominated by the solar wind and “saturates” in the UV at Is/FeO values of ~40 (submature).