The transition from complex crater to peak-ring basin on the Moon: New observations from the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) instrument
Impact craters on planetary bodies transition with increasing size from simple, to complex, to peak-ring basins and finally to multi-ring basins. Important to understanding the relationship between complex craters with central peaks and multi-ring basins is the analysis of protobasins (exhibiting a rim crest and interior ring plus a central peak) and peak-ring basins (exhibiting a rim crest and an interior ring). New data have permitted improved portrayal and classification of these transitional features on the Moon. We used new 128 pixel/degree gridded topographic data from the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) instrument onboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, combined with image mosaics, to conduct a survey of craters >50 km in diameter on the Moon and to update the existing catalogs of lunar peak-ring basins and protobasins. Our updated catalog includes 17 peak-ring basins (rim-crest diameters range from 207 km to 582 km, geometric mean = 343 km) and 3 protobasins (137-170 km, geometric mean = 157 km). Several basins inferred to be multi-ring basins in prior studies (Apollo, Moscoviense, Grimaldi, Freundlich-Sharonov, Coulomb-Sarton, and Korolev) are now classified as peak-ring basins due to their similarities with lunar peak-ring basin morphologies and absence of definitive topographic ring structures greater than two in number. We also include in our catalog 23 craters exhibiting small ring-like clusters of peaks (50-205 km, geometric mean = 81 km); one (Humboldt) exhibits a rim-crest diameter and an interior morphology that may be uniquely transitional to the process of forming peak rings. A power-law fit to ring diameters ( Dring) and rim-crest diameters ( Dr) of peak-ring basins on the Moon [ Dring = 0.14 ± 0.10( Dr) 1.21±0.13] reveals a trend that is very similar to a power-law fit to peak-ring basin diameters on Mercury [ Dring = 0.25 ± 0.14( Drim) 1.13±0.10] [Baker, D.M.H. et al. . Planet. Space Sci., in press]. Plots of ring/rim-crest ratios versus rim-crest diameters for peak-ring basins and protobasins on the Moon also reveal a continuous, nonlinear trend that is similar to trends observed for Mercury and Venus and suggest that protobasins and peak-ring basins are parts of a continuum of basin morphologies. The surface density of peak-ring basins on the Moon (4.5 × 10 -7 per km 2) is a factor of two less than Mercury (9.9 × 10 -7 per km 2), which may be a function of their widely different mean impact velocities (19.4 km/s and 42.5 km/s, respectively) and differences in peak-ring basin onset diameters. New calculations of the onset diameter for peak-ring basins on the Moon and the terrestrial planets re-affirm previous analyses that the Moon has the largest onset diameter for peak-ring basins in the inner Solar System. Comparisons of the predictions of models for the formation of peak-ring basins with the characteristics of the new basin catalog for the Moon suggest that formation and modification of an interior melt cavity and nonlinear scaling of impact melt volume with crater diameter provide important controls on the development of peak rings. In particular, a power-law model of growth of an interior melt cavity with increasing crater diameter is consistent with power-law fits to the peak-ring basin data for the Moon and Mercury. We suggest that the relationship between the depth of melting and depth of the transient cavity offers a plausible control on the onset diameter and subsequent development of peak-ring basins and also multi-ring basins, which is consistent with both planetary gravitational acceleration and mean impact velocity being important in determining the onset of basin morphological forms on the terrestrial planets.