THE INTERCRATER PLAINS OF MERCURY AND THE MOON: THEIR NATURE, ORIGIN, AND ROLE IN TERRESTRIAL PLANET EVOLUTION
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe various origins proposed for intercrater plains on Mercury and the Moon lead to divergent thermal, tectonic, and bombardment histories. Relative ages of geologic units and structures place tight constraints on their origin and on the planet's geologic history. Crater statistics, lunar geologic map analysis, and geologic mapping of a quarter of Mercury's surface based on plains units dated relative to crater degradation classes were used to determine relative ages. Such studies provided the basis for deducing the origin of intercrater plains and their role in terrestrial planet evolution. Mercury's extensive intercrater plains span a range of ages contemporaneous with the period of heavy bombardment. Most intercrater plains predate scarp formation and the formation of the hilly and lineated terrain. The age of the latter is identical to that of its probable progenitor, the Caloris basin impact. Post-Caloris plains--smoother in texture, less extensive, and confined to crater depressions--formed as cratering waned and scarp formation progressed. This research indicates that mercurian intercrater plains are volcanic deposits interbedded with ballistically emplaced ejecta and reworked by basin secondaries and smaller impacts. A greater proportion of ejecta may comprise lunar intercrater plains. Neither the lunar nor mercurian intercrater surface is primordial because each preserves pre-plains crateriforms. Ancient volcanism on Mercury is evidenced by widespread plains distribution, structurally controlled deposition, embayment of craters and basins, associated (but tentative) volcanic landforms, losses of small craters, and uncorrelated plains and crater coverage. The limited range of mercurian ejecta reduces the resurfacing potential relative to that of lunar craters. Crater densities are affected by intercrater plains emplacement, additions of secondaries, ancient basin impacts, and target physical properties. "One-plate" thermo-tectonic models best explain the geologic characteristics recognized in this study. Thermal expansion during core formation causes global extension and widespread volcanic extrusions; subsequent cooling and radial contraction form compressional scarps. Younger plains-forming materials issue from magma reservoirs in subsurface tensional zones tapped by impact fractures. The age and stress environment of these volcanic plains suggest a source greater than 40 km depth and a composition different from that of the intercrater plains.
Degree ProgramGraduate College