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August 31, 2007


Filed under: , — chuckwood @ 12:01 am

Apollo 15 photograph from LPI Apollo Image Atlas

Here is a remarkable piece of evidence about lava flows on the Moon - do you see it? The 22 km wide crater is Krieger with the fresh crater Van Biesbroeck on its rim (remind me to tell you about Van-B, a wonderful little man). The interior of Krieger is unusual, its has a central tilted plateau which is surrounded by strange little hills that don’t look like rim debris. What is perhaps most unusual is the notch on the west rim and the rille that starts there and extends about 20 km to the northwest. Like many of the rilles in this Aristarchus-Prinz region, the Krieger Rille has abrupt right angle bends, as if a plumber designed it. I think that a pond of lava within Krieger drained through the rim notch, creating the rille which distributed lava out onto the mare. Did you notice the rille at bottom left - its one of the Aristarchus Rilles - #VI according to the old System of Lunar Craters map F3. VI ends, but then appears to begin a few kilometers further north. The idea that sinuous rilles (or orthogonal ones like the Krieger Rille) transport lava always leads doubters to question, where did the lava go? Here we can see that it spread out in a layer thick enough to cover #VI. And notice that the area around the rille has fewer impact craters, is darker and a smoother surface - it could be the Krieger Rille flow. Well, this is more than 200 words, and there are some, “Yeah, but what about” questions that can be asked. So ask away!

Chuck Wood

Technical Details:
Apollo 15 Metric Camera image 2480

Related Links:
R√ľkl plates 18 & 19
A rare Earth detection of the Krieger Rille - in LPOD, of course!

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  1. Dr. Wood,
    What I find interesting is that the lava, if indeed it flowed and caused such cutting actions as to form these “rilles”, and I am familiar with water doing such things, is not building up and following depressions like valleys as it does here on earth.

    Norval L. Cunningham

    Comment by craterchains — August 31, 2007 @ 12:46 am

  2. Dr. Wood,
    are you suggesting that at a certin point the lava spreads outward from its shallower rill-banks and flooded the surrounding area after rapidly cutting through the original regolith & surface rock? It appears both rills are heading Northward into low land. It may be a possiblity they connected at one time. But it is difficult to decipher this image without others under various lighting conditions as comparisons. Ugggh, I simply don’t know enough about volcanic lava behaviors.

    This isn’t the first time you have mentioned the name Biesbroeck. Who was he, what was his achievments, and did you ever meet him?

    Comment by Abadin — August 31, 2007 @ 3:03 am

  3. Norval - Lava doesn’t cut the channels so much as it builds levees that are the channel walls - lava overflows its banks and spreads sideways as well as flowing downhill and out the snout. Lava does follow valley and sometimes fills them with flows.

    Abadin - One possibility is that the Kreiger Rille actually was continuous with the northern end of rille VI, but the cross-sectiional shapes of the rilles agrue against that. You are correct that using additional images is the next step to understanding what happened here.

    Van B was a Dutch astronomer who studies comets and double stars during his long life. I am not aware that he did any lunar work. He worked at Yerkes for decades and his goatee got frozen to the telescope and he was pulled up into the air because the telescope was unbalances. He was always a delightful person when I knew him at the Lunar Lab in the 1960s.


    Comment by chuckwood — August 31, 2007 @ 7:06 am

  4. The image of a distinguished astronomer elevated into the air when his beard froze to the scope is too remarkable to be left to a comment; it deserves its own daily entry! Too bad there are no photos of *that*!

    Comment by hermanbubbert — August 31, 2007 @ 9:03 am

  5. Dr. Wood,

    I noticed that the ejecta blanket is only on the North and South sides. Also the north blanket comes back over the wall and appears to have flowed out onto the surface. Can you explain this strange appearance of the ejecta? Thanks,


    Comment by dengwer — August 31, 2007 @ 8:51 pm

  6. Good observations, David. For some reason the E and W sides of the ejecta blanket appear to have been lower and were covered with later mare lavas - on the W it looks like lava from the rille covered the ejecta. Although it seems that ejecta from the N has come into the crater I don’t think it has - its just the fact that that side of the rim in well iluminated, maybe!
    Nobody has commented about the hills on the crater floor - I wonder if they are pillars of lava that cooled when the crater was filled partially with lava? When the lava drained through the notch they were left standing??

    Comment by chuckwood — September 1, 2007 @ 6:36 am

  7. Hello,

    What is the dark spot that is somewhat triangle shaped in the center of the picture? I am guessing a shadow from the Apollo spacecraft?

    Comment by preston.pendergraft — September 4, 2007 @ 6:49 pm

  8. Hello,

    I don’t think the first comment made it through. I was wondering what the dark spot that is somewhat triangle shaped in in the center of the page near the mountain above the crater is. I am guessing a shadow of the Apollo spacecraft?

    Comment by preston.pendergraft — September 4, 2007 @ 6:52 pm

  9. Preston -
    I don’t know what it is - don’t think it is the spacecraft shadow though.
    This is from an image that was digitized by hand - its possible that some piece of dust or artifact or something got introduced. Some of the folks here know more about this type of thing and might have a real anawer!

    Comment by chuckwood — September 4, 2007 @ 9:03 pm

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