Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Planetary Science


Dr. Gordon R. Osinski


Hypervelocity collisions of asteroids onto planetary bodies have catastrophic effects on the target rocks through the process of shock metamorphism. The resulting features, impact craters, are circular depressions with a sharp rim surrounded by an ejecta blanket of variably shocked rocks. With increasing impact energy, the inner crater cavity can preserve complex morphologies including terraced walls, central uplifts, and melted rocks. The lack of erosion due to the absence of water or an atmosphere makes the Moon the perfect target to study impact crater processes, in particular the distribution of highly shocked materials within impact craters of different sizes. This study focuses on the characterization and distribution of highly shocked impact melt deposits using multispectral satellite datasets around three complex craters on the farside of the Moon. The study sites have varying morphologies of central uplifts on the crater floor: 1) the 81 km Olcott crater has a cluster of peak hills; 2) Kovalevskaya crater is a 113 km diameter complex crater with a central peak; and 3) Schrodinger basin has a central peak ring. Models propose that the collapse of crater walls and central uplifts during the final stages of crater formation determine where much of the melt rich rocks are eventually emplaced. The results of this study indicate that for increasing crater sizes, the volume of melt-rich rocks generated also increases – at rates greater than model estimates. Impact melt deposits are emplaced beyond the crater rims at each of the sites and preserve a range of morphologies, including melt veneers, melt sheet, and ponded deposits. The regional and local topography, together with crater modification processes greatly affect where the impact melts are finally emplaced. The compositional analyses of the farside crust, using multispectral reflectance spectroscopy in the UV-VIS-NIR range, indicates that there is increasing evidence of highly mafic compositions (i.e., rocks rich in high-Ca pyroxene, olivine, spinel) intercalated within the original crustal highlands (rocks rich in plagioclase feldspar, and low-Ca pyroxenes) on the lunar farside, proving that the lunar farside is a far more geologically complicated terrain than originally assumed.