Alteration of Lunar Optical Properties: Age and Composition Effects

+ See all authors and affiliations

Science  12 Feb 1971:
Vol. 171, Issue 3971, pp. 567-571
DOI: 10.1126/science.171.3971.567


A model for lunar surface processes is presented which explains the main albedo and color contrasts and the temporal changes in these optical properties. Evidence from Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 samples and telescopic spectral reflectivity measurements indicates that the maria are similar in mineralogy on a regional scale and that the highlands are consistent with an anorthositic-gabbro composition. Bright craters and rays in both regions expose materials that are relatively crystalline compared with their backgrounds, which are richer in dark glass. With age, bright craters and rays in the maria darken in place by meteorite impact-induced vitrification and mixing with the surrounding material. Highland bright craters and rays may, however, darken primarily through regional contamination by iron- and titanium-rich mare material.