Optical maturity of ejecta from large rayed lunar craters


  • Jennifer A. Grier,

  • Alfred S. McEwen,

  • Paul G. Lucey,

  • Moses Milazzo,

  • Robert G. Strom


Lucey et al. [2000] have developed a methodology for extracting an optical maturity parameter (OMAT) from multispectral Clementine images. The OMAT parameter characterizes the overall maturity of lunar soils and crater ejecta by changes in reflectance spectra. Using these OMAT images, we surveyed large craters (≥20 km diameter) on the Moon that had previously been mapped as possessing or possibly possessing rayed ejecta. We generated average radial profiles of OMAT values for rays of these large craters. From these profiles we classified the craters into three relative age groups: (1) older than Copernicus (inferred age of ∼810 Myr), (2) intermediate, and (3) as young or younger than Tycho (inferred age of ∼109 Myr). We suspect that there is a bias to our classification scheme, such that the OMAT profiles of smaller craters look like that of larger but older craters. Nevertheless, some large craters, such as Eudoxus (67 km) and Aristillus (55 km), are now known from this study to have optically mature ejecta and therefore are suspected to be older than Copernicus (this is consistent with an age of 1.3 Gyr suggested for Aristillus by Ryder et al. [1991]). Such craters were included by McEwen et al. [1997] when estimating the density of craters younger than or contemporaneous with Copernicus. Therefore the case for a modest increase in the cratering rate (in the past 800 Myr versus the previous 2.4 Gyr) indicated from that work has been weakened [Grier and McEwen, 2001]. Given current constraints on dating large and recent lunar craters, we cannot support (or disprove) the hypothesis that there has been a significant increase in the rate of large terrestrial impact events in the past 100–400 Myr.