Lunar Irregular Mare Patches:Classification, Characteristics, Geologic Settings, Updated Catalog, Origin, and Outstanding Questions

Qiao, L. and Head, J.W. and Ling, Z. and Wilson, L. (2020) Lunar Irregular Mare Patches:Classification, Characteristics, Geologic Settings, Updated Catalog, Origin, and Outstanding Questions. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 125 (7). ISSN 2169-9100

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One of the most mysterious lunar features discovered during the Apollo era was Ina, a ~2 × 3-km depression composed of bleb-like mounds surrounded by hummocky and blocky terrains. Subsequent studies identified dozens of similar features in lunar maria, describing them as Irregular Mare Patches (IMPs). Due to the unusual and complex characteristics of IMPs, their specific formation mechanism is debated. To improve our understanding of the nature and origin of IMPs, we undertook an updated search and geological characterization of all IMPs and established a classification approach encompassing the full spectrum of IMPs. We present an updated catalog of 91 IMPs and survey the detailed characteristics of each IMP. We find that the majority of IMPs occur in maria emplaced over three billion years ago, contemporaneous with the peak period of global lunar volcanism. We utilized geologic context information and characteristics to establish two classification schemes for lunar IMPs: (1) geologic context: IMPs are categorized into (a) small shield volcano summit pit floor and flank, (b) linear/sinuous rille interior and adjacent exterior, and (c) typical maria; (2) characteristics: IMPs are classified into (a) “mound + floor” and (b) “pit only” types. We showed the range of characteristics of lunar IMPs was consistent with the waning-stage magmatic foam formation and extrusion scenario in different environments. Our updated catalog and classification raise several outstanding questions concerning the nature and origin of lunar IMPs. Assessing these questions will improve our knowledge of lunar thermal and geologic evolution. ©2020. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

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Journal Article
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Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets
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An edited version of this paper was published by AGU. Copyright 2020 American Geophysical Union. Qiao, L., Head, J. W., Ling, Z., & Wilson, L. (2020). Lunar irregular mare patches: Classification, characteristics, geologic settings, updated catalog, origin, and outstanding questions. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 125, e2019JE006362. To view the published open abstract, go to and enter the DOI.
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22 Sep 2020 16:05
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17 Sep 2023 02:52