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The Role of Breccia Lenses in Regolith Generation From the Formation of Small, Simple Craters: Application to the Apollo 15 Landing Site

Author

Hirabayashi, Masatoshi
Howl, Bryan A.
Fassett, Caleb I.
Soderblom, Jason M.
Minton, David A.
Melosh, H. J.
0000-0002-1821-5689

Publisher

AMER GEOPHYSICAL UNION

Abstract

Impact cratering is likely a primary agent of regolith generation on airless bodies. Regolith production via impact cratering has long been a key topic of study since the Apollo era. The evolution of regolith due to impact cratering, however, is not well understood. A better formulation is needed to help quantify the formation mechanism and timescale of regolith evolution. Here we propose an analytically derived stochastic model that describes the evolution of regolith generated by small, simple craters. We account for ejecta blanketing as well as regolith infilling of the transient crater cavity. Our results show that the regolith infilling plays a key role in producing regolith. Our model demonstrates that because of the stochastic nature of impact cratering, the regolith thickness varies laterally, which is consistent with earlier work. We apply this analytical model to the regolith evolution at the Apollo 15 site. The regolith thickness is computed considering the observed crater size-frequency distribution of small, simple lunar craters (< 381m in radius for ejecta blanketing and <100m in radius for the regolith infilling). Allowing for some amount of regolith coming from the outside of the area, our result is consistent with an empirical result from the Apollo 15 seismic experiment. Finally, we find that the timescale of regolith growth is longer than that of crater equilibrium, implying that even if crater equilibrium is observed on a cratered surface, it is likely that the regolith thickness is still evolving due to additional impact craters. Plain Language Summary Impact cratering likely generates much of the regolith (the surface layer made up of a mixture of rocks, rock fragments, sand, and dust) observed on airless planetary surfaces. However, the way that the regolith layer evolves and thickens over time due to impact cratering events is not well understood. When a small, simple crater forms into hard rock, regolith is produced by fracturing the target rock and is deposited in the crater's ejecta blanket and within its transient crater cavity. Here we discuss an analytically derived stochastic model that describes the evolution of regolith developed by simple craters. Our results indicate that the regolith deposited on crater interiors is particularly important to consider when describing the distribution of regolith. Our model also indicates that the regolith thickness varies from one location to another. We apply this model to the regolith at the Apollo 15 landing site by considering the size distribution of observed small, simple lunar craters. Allowing for some regolith coming from outside of the area of the landing site, our result is consistent with an empirical result from the Apollo 15 seismic experiment.

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