Lunar mare

The major products of volcanic processes on the Moon are evident to the Earth-bound observer in the form of the lunar maria. These are large flows of basaltic lava that correspond to low-albedo surfaces covering nearly a third of the near side. Only a few percent of the farside has been affected by mare volcanism. Even before the Apollo missions confirmed it, most scientists believed that the maria were lava-filled plains, since they possessed lava flow patterns and collapses attributed to lava tubes. The ages of the mare basalts have been determined both by direct radiometric dating and by the technique of crater counting. The oldest radiometric ages are about 4.2 Ga, whereas the youngest ages determined from crater counting are about 1 Ga (1 Ga = 1 billion years). Volumetrically, most of the mare formed between about 3 and 3.5 Ga before present. The youngest lavas erupted within Oceanus Procellarum, whereas some of the oldest appear to be located on the farside. The maria are clearly younger than the surrounding highlands given their lower density of impact craters. Volcanic rilles near the crater Prinz Volcanic domes within the Mons Rumker complex Wrinkle ridges within the crater Letronne Rima Ariadaeus is a graben. NASA photo taken during Apollo 10 mission. A large portion of maria erupted within, or flowed into, the low-lying impact basins on the lunar nearside. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that a causal relationship exists between the impact event and mare volcanism because the impact basins are much older (by about 500 million years) than the mare fill. Furthermore, Oceanus Procellarum, which is the largest expanse of mare volcanism on the Moon, does not correspond to any known impact basin. It is commonly suggested that the reason the mare only erupted on the nearside is that the nea

side crust is thinner than the farside. While crustal thickness variations might act to modulate the amount of magma that ultimately reaches the surface, this hypothesis does not explain why the farside South Pole-Aitken basin, whose crust is thinner than Oceanus Procellarum, was only modestly filled by volcanic products. Finally, it should be noted that the Earth's gravity played no preferential role in causing mare volcanism to occur on the near side, as the Earth's gravitational attraction is exactly balanced by the centrifugal acceleration resulting from the Moon's rotation. Another type of deposit associated with the maria, although it also covers the highland areas, are the "dark mantle" deposits. These deposits cannot be seen with the naked eye, but they can be seen in images taken from telescopes or orbiting spacecraft. Before the Apollo missions, scientists believed that they were deposits produced by pyroclastic eruptions. Some deposits appear to be associated with dark elongated ash cones, reinforcing the idea of pyroclasts. The existence of pyroclastic eruptions was later confirmed by the discovery of glass spherules similar to those found in pyroclastic eruptions here on Earth. Many of the lunar basalts contain small holes called vesicles, which were formed by gas bubbles exsolving from the magma at the vacuum conditions encountered at the surface. It is not known with certainty which gases escaped these rocks, but carbon monoxide is one candidate. The samples of pyroclastic glasses are of green, yellow, and red tints. The difference in color indicates the concentration of titanium that the rock possesses, with the green particles having the lowest concentrations (about 1%), and red particles having the highest concentrations (up to 14%, much more than the basalts with the highest concentrations).