The lunar crust: Global structure and signature of major basins


  • Gregory A. Neumann,

  • Maria T. Zuber,

  • David E. Smith,

  • Frank G. Lemoine


New lunar gravity and topography data from the Clementine Mission provide a global Bouguer anomaly map corrected for the gravitational attraction of mare fill in mascon basins. Most of the gravity signal remaining after corrections for the attraction of topography and mare fill can be attributed to variations in depth to the lunar Moho and therefore crustal thickness. The large range of global crustal thickness (∼20–120 km) is indicative of major spatial variations in melting of the lunar exterior and/or significant impact-related redistribution. The 61-km average crustal thickness, constrained by a depth-to-Moho measured during the Apollo 12 and 14 missions, is preferentially distributed toward the farside, accounting for much of the offset in center-of-figure from the center-of-mass. While the average farside thickness is 12 km greater than the nearside, the distribution is nonuniform, with dramatic thinning beneath the farside, South Pole-Aitken basin. With the global crustal thickness map as a constraint, regional inversions of gravity and topography resolve the crustal structure of major mascon basins to half wavelengths of 150 km. In order to yield crustal thickness maps with the maximum horizontal resolution permitted by the data, the downward continuation of the Bouguer gravity is stabilized by a three-dimensional, minimum-slope and curvature algorithm. Both mare and non-mare basins are characterized by a central upwarped moho that is surrounded by rings of thickened crust lying mainly within the basin rims. The inferred relief at this density interface suggests a deep structural component to the surficial features of multiring lunar impact basins. For large (>300 km diameter) basins, moho relief appears uncorrelated with diameter, but is negatively correlated with basin age. In several cases, it appears that the multiring structures were out of isostatic equilibrium prior to mare emplacement, suggesting that the lithosphere was strong enough to maintain their state of stress to the present.