, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 117-133

Post-imbrian global lunar tectonism: Evidence for an initially totally molten Moon

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Abstract

Evaluation of all reasonable sources of stress in the lunar crust indicates that compressional thermoelastic stresses are the only ones which have been tectonically significant on the global scale during the last 3.5×109 yr of lunar history — i.e., the post-Imbrian. However, the thermoelastic stresses calculated for lunar models which have accretional heating profiles at the beginning of lunar history; i.e., a molten zone only a few hundred kilometers deep and a cool deep interior, are less than 1 kbar in the crust. Such stresses are lower than the more than 1 to 7 kbar needed to initiate thrust faulting in the outer crust according to Anderson's theory of thrust faulting. Thus such accretional models predict that no significant global thrust faulting has occurred during the post-Imbrian and that the crust should currently be seismically quiet on the global scale.

In contrast, the compressional thermoelastic stresses generated in a Moon which was initially totally molten, as is the case if the Moon formed by fission, are up to 3.5 kbar in the outer few km of the crust at present. These stresses are well within the range needed to cause thrust faulting in the outer 4 km of the crust. According to this model there should be modest scale (10 km), young (≤ 0.5 to 1×109 yr old) thrust fault scarps in the highlands.

Photoselenological investigations confirm that scarps with the expected age and geometric characteristics are found in the highlands. Thus the currently available photoselenological data support the stress model derived for an initially totally molten Moon, but not one which was molten only in the outer few hundreds of km.