The origin of Ina: Evidence for inflated lava flows on the Moon



[1] Ina is an enigmatic volcanic feature on the Moon known for its irregularly shaped mounds, the origin of which has been debated since the Apollo Missions. Three main units are observed on the floor of the depression (2.9 km across, ≤64 m deep) located at the summit of a low-shield volcano: irregularly shaped mounds up to 20 m tall, a lower unit 1 to 5 m in relief that surrounds the mounds, and blocky material. Analyses of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera images and topography show that features in Ina are morphologically similar to terrestrial inflated lava flows. Comparison of these unusual lunar mounds and possible terrestrial analogs leads us to hypothesize that features in Ina were formed through lava flow inflation processes. While the source of the lava remains unclear, this new model suggests that as the mounds inflated, breakouts along their margins served as sources for surface flows that created the lower morphologic unit. Over time, mass wasting of both morphologic units has exposed fresh surfaces observed in the blocky unit. Ina is different than the terrestrial analogs presented in this study in that the lunar features formed within a depression, no vent sources are observed, and no cracks are observed on the mounds. However, lava flow inflation processes explain many of the morphologic relationships observed in Ina and are proposed to be analogous with inflated lava flows on Earth.