Wireframe view of the Mare Tranquillitatis pit.
Wireframe view of the east and west walls, and floor, of the Mare Tranquillitatis pit, overlaid by an oblique rendering of the surrounding terrain. The pit is approximately 100 meters wide and 125 meters deep. Credit: Wagner and Robinson [2022]
Editors’ Highlights are summaries of recent papers by AGU’s journal editors.
Source: Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets

If we only had geological information from the surface of the Earth, our understanding of our planet would be severely limited. The same is true for other planets. Yet orbital missions and even rovers can only image or sample rocks very close to the surface. As on Earth, we could take advantage of caves and other naturally formed voids to access the subsurface environment. Caves could serve as shelter for long-term exploration, preserve delicate geological structures, and give access to a geological stratigraphic sequence. Lunar pits may provide access points to such caves. However, exploring these caves requires that we fully understand the shape and origin of the pits.

Wagner and Robinson [2022] took advantage of a rich dataset of oblique images to position precisely in three dimensions markings observed on the walls of six lunar pits. They describe in detail the shape of the funnel that leads into many pits, the stratigraphy of the near-vertical walls, and the presence in some cases an overhang that may provide access to an underground space. They interpret pit morphology in terms of degradation to argue the pits are much younger than the terrains in which they form. Finally, they make their 3D point clouds openly available for all to explore and utilize.

Citation: Wagner, R. V., & Robinson, M. S. (2022). Lunar pit morphology: Implications for exploration. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 127, e2022JE007328. https://doi.org/10.1029/2022JE007328

—Laurent G. J. Montési, Editor in Chief, Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets

Text © 2022. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
Except where otherwise noted, images are subject to copyright. Any reuse without express permission from the copyright owner is prohibited.