Formation of the Orientale lunar multiring basin

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Science  28 Oct 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6311, pp. 441-444
DOI: 10.1126/science.aag0518

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titOn the origin of Orientale basinle

Orientale basin is a major impact crater on the Moon, which is hard to see from Earth because it is right on the western edge of the lunar nearside. Relatively undisturbed by later events, Orientale serves as a prototype for understanding large impact craters throughout the solar system. Zuber et al. used the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission to map the gravitational field around the crater in great detail by flying the twin spacecraft as little as 2 km above the surface. Johnson et al. performed a sophisticated computer simulation of the impact and its subsequent evolution, designed to match the data from GRAIL. Together, these studies reveal how major impacts affect the lunar surface and will aid our understanding of other impacts on rocky planets and moons.

Science, this issue pp. 438 and 441


Multiring basins, large impact craters characterized by multiple concentric topographic rings, dominate the stratigraphy, tectonics, and crustal structure of the Moon. Using a hydrocode, we simulated the formation of the Orientale multiring basin, producing a subsurface structure consistent with high-resolution gravity data from the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft. The simulated impact produced a transient crater, ~390 kilometers in diameter, that was not maintained because of subsequent gravitational collapse. Our simulations indicate that the flow of warm weak material at depth was crucial to the formation of the basin’s outer rings, which are large normal faults that formed at different times during the collapse stage. The key parameters controlling ring location and spacing are impactor diameter and lunar thermal gradients.

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