Radar probing of planetary regoliths: An example from the northern rim of Imbrium basin

Thomas W. Thompson, Bruce A. Campbell, Rebecca R. Ghent, B. Ray Hawke, David W. Leverington

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18 Scopus citations


Imaging radar measurements at long wavelengths (e.g., >30 cm) allow deep (up to tens of meters) probing of the physical structure and dielectric properties of planetary regoliths. We illustrate a potential application for a Mars orbital synthetic aperture radar (SAR) using new Earth-based 70-cm wavelength radar data for the Moon. The terrae on the northern margin of Mare Imbrium, the Montes Jura region, have diffuse radar backscatter echoes that are 2-4 times weaker at 3.8-cm, 70-cm, and 7.5-m wavelengths than most other lunar nearside terrae. Possible geologic explanations are (1) a pyroclastic deposit associated with sinuous rilles in this region, (2) buried mare basalt or a zone of mixed highland/basaltic debris (cryptomaria), or (3) layers of ejecta associated with the Iridum and Plato impacts that have fewer meter-sized rocks than typical highlands regolith. While radar data at 3.8-cm to 7.5-m wavelengths suggest significant differences between the Montes Jura region and typical highlands, the surface geochemistry and rock abundance inferred from Clementine UV-VIS data and eclipse thermal images are consistent with other lunar terrae. There is no evidence for enhanced iron abundance, expected for basaltic pyroclastic deposits, near the source vents of the sinuous rilles radial to Plato. The regions of low 70-cm radar return are consistent with overlapping concentric "haloes" about Iridum and Plato and do not occur preferentially in topographically low areas, as is observed for radar-mapped cryptomaria. Thus we suggest that the extensive radar-dark area associated with the Montes Jura region is due to overlapping, rock-poor ejecta deposits from Iridum and Plato craters. Comparison of the radial extent of low-radar-return crater haloes with a model for ejecta thickness shows that these rock-poor layers are detected by 70-cm radar where they are on the order of 10 m and thicker. A SAR in orbit about Mars could use similar deep probing to reveal the nature of crater- and basin-related deposits.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberE06S14
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 20 2006


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