Global mapping of lunar crustal magnetic fields by Lunar Prospector

D. L. Mitchell, J. S. Halekas, R. P. Lin, S. Frey, L. L. Hood, M. H. Acuña, A. Binder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


The Lunar Prospector Electron Reflectometer has obtained the first global map of lunar crustal magnetic fields, revealing that the effects of basin-forming impacts dominate the large-scale distribution of remanent magnetic fields on the Moon. The weakest surface magnetic fields (<0.2 nT) are found within two of the largest and most recent impact basins, Orientale and Imbrium. Conversely, the largest concentrations of strong surface fields (>40 nT) are diametrically opposite to these same basins. This pattern is present though less pronounced for several other post-Nectarian impact basins larger than 500 km in diameter. The reduced strength and clarity of the pattern for older basins may be attributed to: (1) demagnetization from many smaller impacts, which erases antipodal magnetic signatures over time, (2) superposition effects from other large impacts, and (3) variation in the strength of the ambient magnetizing field. The absence of fringing fields stronger than 1 nT around the perimeter of the Imbrium basin or associated with craters within the basin implies that any uniform magnetization of the impact melt must be weaker than ∼ 10-6 G cm3 g-1. This limits the strength of any steady ambient magnetic field to no more than ∼0.1 Oe at the lunar surface while the basin cooled for tens of millions of years following the Imbrium impact 3.8 billion years ago.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-409
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Cratering
  • Impact processes
  • Magnetic fields
  • Moon
  • surface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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