The moon

, Volume 10, Issue 3–4, pp 307–322 | Cite as

Lunar mascons as consequences of giant impacts

  • Jafar Arkani-Hamed


A model is proposed for the formation of lunar mascons which explains persistence of lunar mascons for more than 3 b.y., evidence for the volcanic activity 3.7-3.2 b.y. ago, and negative gravity anomalies surrounding the mascons. It is concluded that mascons have resulted from the perturbations introduced by the giant impacts into an otherwise spherically symmetric Moon; a giant impact enhances the rate of cooling beneath the impact site by introducing releatively low temperature to a deeper part of the Moon through forming a basin and also by removing substantial amount of radioactive material by means of ejecta. On the other hand, it reduces the rate of cooling beneath the surrounding highland by thermal insulation through extensive fracturing and covering by an ejecta blanketing. Consequently, the base of the lithosphere (100 km thick) beneath the highland remelts to a depth of about 80 km and this creates thermal stresses strong enough to open the fractures in the overlying region and to cause magmatization and volcanic activity. Persistence of the molten phase around 100 km depth for about 1 b.y. probably provides further differentiation and an upward concentration of low density material, giving rise to the observed negative gravity rings. On the other hand, the relatively cold lithosphere beneath the basin forms a layer strong enough to support the associated mascon.


Thermal Stress Lithosphere Volcanic Activity Gravity Anomaly Deep Part 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jafar Arkani-Hamed
    • 1
  1. 1.Lunar Science InstituteHoustonUSA

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