Viscoelastic deformation of lunar impact basins: Implications for heterogeneity in the deep crustal paleo-thermal state and radioactive element concentration

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Abstract

[1] Diverse geological characteristics found for the three major lunar provinces (i.e., the Feldspathic Highlands Terrane (FHT), the South Pole-Aitken Terrane (SPAT), and the Procerallum KREEP Terrane (PKT)) strongly suggest their distinctly different thermal histories. Quantitative differences among these provinces in their early thermal histories and crustal radioactive element concentrations, however, are highly unknown. One of the few observables that retain a record of the ancient lunar thermal structure is the viscoelastic state of impact basins. This study investigates the long-term evolution of basin structures using global lunar gravity field data obtained by Kaguya tracking and derives constraints for (1) the paleo-thermal state of impact basins and for (2) crustal column-averaged radioactive element concentrations for each province. Our calculation results indicate that impact basins in the central anorthositic region of the FHT (i.e., the FHT-An) require a very cold interior ( dT ∕ dr ≤ 20 K km  − 1 on the surface). This result strongly suggests that the deep portion of the thick farside highlands crust is highly depleted in radioactive elements (Th ≤ 0.5 ppm), indicating that the Th-rich SPA basin floor crust is clearly different from the lower crust underneath the FHT-An and cannot be accounted for by simple exposure of the lower crust. Our analysis also indicates that the observed basin structure allows as high as ∼ 6 ppm of column-averaged Th concentration in the crust inside the PKT. These results indicate that radioactive element concentrations deep in the crust probably vary greatly region by region, similarly to those observed on the surface.

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