Constraints on the depth and variability of the lunar regolith




Abstract— Knowledge of regolith depth structure is important for a variety of studies of the Moon and other bodies such as Mercury and asteroids. Lunar regolith depths have been estimated using morphological techniques (i.e., Quaide and Oberbeck 1968; Shoemaker and Morris 1969), crater counting techniques (Shoemaker et al. 1969), and seismic studies (i.e., Watkins and Kovach 1973; Cooper et al. 1974). These diverse methods provide good first order estimates of regolith depths across large distances (tens to hundreds of kilometers), but may not clearly elucidate the variability of regolith depth locally (100 m to km scale). In order to better constrain the regional average depth and local variability of the regolith, we investigate several techniques. First, we find that the apparent equilibrium diameter of a crater population increases with an increasing solar incidence angle, and this affects the inferred regolith depth by increasing the range of predicted depths (from ∼7–15 m depth at 100 m equilibrium diameter to ∼8–40 m at 300 m equilibrium diameter). Second, we examine the frequency and distribution of blocky craters in selected lunar mare areas and find a range of regolith depths (8–31 m) that compares favorably with results from the equilibrium diameter method (8–33 m) for areas of similar age (∼2.5 billion years). Finally, we examine the utility of using Clementine optical maturity parameter images (Lucey et al. 2000) to determine regolith depth. The resolution of Clementine images (100 m/pixel) prohibits determination of absolute depths, but this method has the potential to give relative depths, and if higher resolution spectral data were available could yield absolute depths.