Spectral properties of the Marius Hills volcanic complex and implications for the formation of lunar domes and cones


  • Catherine M. Weitz,

  • James W. Head III


We have used multispectral data from the Clementine UV-visible camera to study the volcanic features of the Marius Hills complex and their comparison to other lunar domes and cones. There are several mare units identified in the complex, each with a unique Ti content, as indicated by their 415/750 nm value. The domes in Marius Hills are spectrally identical to the mare plains of the complex, supporting similar compositions. In contrast, most of the volcanic cones of the complex are lower in reflectance, bluer in color, and have weaker mafic absorptions than the mare and domes. The spectral characteristics of the cones can best be explained by fine-grained crystallization in the spatter that compose the cones. Other lunar cones, such as Mons Esam in northern Tranquillitatis, have spectral properties similar to those at Marius Hills. The Rima Parry cones and their associated dark mantle deposit appear redder with a stronger mafic absorption than the Marius Hills cones. The cones Isis and Osiris in southern Mare Serenitatis, the domes of Rumker Hills, and several domes in northern Mare Tranquillitatis are spectrally similar to adjacent mare units. The Mairan and Gruithuisen domes in northern Oceanus Procellarum have a feldspathic signature characteristic of highland material although they are redder and brighter than adjacent highland soils. They appear to represent highland material that resembles domes rather than actual mare domes, like those at Marius and Rumker Hills. The diversity of lunar volcanic features can best be explained by differences in accumulation rates and cooling of ejected clasts from various eruption styles. Mare domes may have formed at lower effusion rates, thereby allowing lava to construct small shields with slopes <3°. The steeper domes at Marius Hills require higher viscosities resulting from even lower effusion rates and enhanced crystallization in the magmas during the terminal stages of earlier eruptions that emplaced the mare. Cones like Mons Esam, Rima Parry, Isis, and Osiris are aligned along linear rules and are interpreted to result from degassing of near-surface dikes. In contrast, the cones of Marius Hills show no linear alignment and may result from strombolian eruptions at the terminal stages of earlier effusive eruptions that emplaced the domes and mare in the complex.