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Lava tubes and channels in the lunar Marius Hills


The Marius Hills region, a volcanic plateau in Oceanus Procellarum, contains numerous rilles, rille-like structures, and chains of elongate craters. Most of these structures characteristically: (1) originate on or near irregular shaped craters associated with features previously interpreted as volcanic domes, (2) trend downslope onto Plateau Plains, (3) generally taper in width and become shallower, (4) are often discountinuous, (5) occupy the center, or apparent crest of a broad ridge, (6) may contain cut-off branches and distributary structures, and (7) may have local reversals in longitudinal slope. Structures having these characteristics are interpreted to be lava channels or partly collapsed lava tubes. Terrestrial lava tubes form exclusively, and commonly, in fluid basalt flows. Recent evidence indicates that viscosities of lunar mare ‘basalt’ lava flows were conducive for lava tube formation.

Terrestrial analogs are offered for structures described in the Marius Hills. The analogs are comparable in qualitative and quantitative geomorphic aspects, excluding that of width. Scaling consideration of lunar reduced gravity accounts for increased width of the lunar structures. Linear and curvilinear rilles trending along equal elevations are interpreted to result from fracturing or faulting.

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Greeley, R. Lava tubes and channels in the lunar Marius Hills. The Moon 3, 289–314 (1971).

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  • Lava Flow
  • Hills Region
  • Distributary Structure
  • Basalt Flow
  • Lava Tube