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Non-mare silicic volcanism on the lunar farside at Compton–Belkovich

Abstract

Non-basaltic volcanism is rare on the Moon. The best known examples occur on the lunar nearside in the compositionally evolved Procellarum KREEP terrane. However, there is an isolated thorium-rich area—the Compton–Belkovich thorium anomaly—on the lunar farside for which the origin is enigmatic. Here we use images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Cameras, digital terrain models and spectral data from the Diviner lunar radiometer to assess the morphology and composition of this region. We identify a central feature, 25 by 35 km across, that is characterized by elevated topography and relatively high reflectance. The topography includes a series of domes that range from less than 1 km to more than 6 km across, some with steeply sloping sides. We interpret these as volcanic domes formed from viscous lava. We also observe arcuate to irregular circular depressions, which we suggest result from collapse associated with volcanism. We find that the volcanic feature is also enriched in silica or alkali-feldspar, indicative of compositionally evolved, rhyolitic volcanic materials. We suggest that the Compton–Belkovich thorium anomaly represents a rare occurrence of non-basaltic volcanism on the lunar farside. We conclude that compositionally evolved volcanism did occur far removed from the Procellarum KREEP terrane.

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Figure 1: Compton–Belkovich thorium anomaly.
Figure 2: Geomorphology of the CBF.
Figure 3: Topography of the CBF.
Figure 4: Domes in the CBF.
Figure 5: Compositions of the CBTA and surrounding region.
Figure 6: Mineralogical information from LRO Diviner.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank the LRO, LROC, and Diviner operations teams for their work and NASA ESMD and SMD for support of the LRO mission. The authors thank N. Petro for comments, which led to significant improvements in the manuscript.

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Contributions

B.L.J. drafted the initial manuscript. S.A.W. processed WAC images and DTMs, and assisted with NAC image processing. S.J.L. worked with B.L.J. on the topic of lunar red spots and volcanic domes. M.S.R is the principal investigator of the LRO Cameras, was responsible for development and operation of the camera system, and contributed to scientific interpretations. F.S. and J.O. of DLR derived and provided the WAC DTM. T.N.T. processed and provided the NAC DTMs and first characterized the ‘big dome.’ S.J.L., M.S.R., B.R.H., H.H., and C.H.v.d.B. provided input on geological relationships and contributed to writing the paper. H.S. provided data for reflectance analysis. B.T.G. and D.A.P. provided the Diviner data, T.D.G. contributed to interpretation of the CF, and D.A.P. is the principal investigator of the Diviner lunar radiometer. All of the authors contributed to assessment and discussion of the results.

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Correspondence to Bradley L. Jolliff.

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Jolliff, B., Wiseman, S., Lawrence, S. et al. Non-mare silicic volcanism on the lunar farside at Compton–Belkovich. Nature Geosci 4, 566–571 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo1212

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