Lunar magnetic anomalies detected by the Apollo substatellite magnetometers

L. L. Hood, P. J. Coleman, C. T. Russell, D. E. Wilhelms

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22 Scopus citations


Properties of lunar crustal magnetization thus far deduced from Apollo subsatellite magnetometer data are reviewed using two of the most accurate presently available magnetic anomaly maps - one covering a portion of the lunar near side and the other a part of the far side. The largest single anomaly found within the region of coverage on the near-side map correlates exactly with a conspicuous, light-colored marking in western Oceanus Procellarum called Reiner Gamma. This feature is interpreted as an unusual deposit of ejecta from secondary craters of the large nearby primary impact crater Cavalerius. An age for Cavalerius (and, by implication, for Reiner Gamma) of 3.2 ± 0.2 × 109 y is estimated. The main (30 × 60 km) Reiner Gamma deposit is nearly uniformly magnetized in a single direction, with a minimum mean magnetization intensity of ∼7 × 10-2 G cm3/g (assuming a density of 3 g/cm3), or about 700 times the stable magnetization component of the most magnetic returned samples. Additional medium-amplitude anomalies exist over the Fra Mauro Formation (Imbrium basin ejecta emplaced ∼3.9 × 109 y ago) where it has not been flooded by mare basalt flows, but are nearly absent over the maria and over the craters Copernicus, Kepler, and Reiner and their encircling ejecta mantles. The mean altitude of the far-side anomaly gap is much higher than that of the near-side map and the surface geology is more complex, so individual anomaly sources have not yet been identified. However, it is clear that a concentration of especially strong sources exists in the vicinity of the craters Van de Graaff and Aitken. Numerical modeling of the associated fields reveals that the source locations do not correspond with the larger primary impact craters of the region and, by analogy with Reiner Gamma, may be less conspicuous secondary crater ejecta deposits. The reason for a special concentration of strong sources in the Van de Graaff-Aitken region is unknown, but may be indirectly related to the existence of strongly modified crustal terrain which also occurs in the same region. The inferred directions of magnetization for the several sources of the largest anomalies are highly inclined with respect to one another, but are generally depleted in the north-south direction. The north-south depletion of magnetization intensity appears to continue across the far-side within the region of coverage. The mechanism of magnetization and the origin of the magnetizing field remain unresolved, but the uniformity with which the Reiner Gamma deposit is apparently magnetized, and the north-south depletion of magnetization intensity across a substantial portion of the far side, seem to require the existence of an ambient field, perhaps of global or larger extent. The very different inferred directions of magnetization possessed by nearly adjacent sources of the Van de Graaff-Aitken anomalies, and the depletion in their north-south component of magnetization, do not favor an internally generated dipolar field oriented parallel to the present spin axis. A variably oriented interplanetary magnetizing field that was intrinsically strong or locally amplified by unknown surface processes is least inconsistent with the data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-311
Number of pages21
JournalPhysics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors
Issue number2-4
StatePublished - Nov 1979
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geophysics
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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