Detection of Subsurface Density Structures of the Aristarchus Plateau by Gravity Inversion

Feng Liang, Mohamed Amrouche, Jianguo Yan, Hakim Saibi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Aristarchus plateau, located at the center of Oceanus Procellarum, exhibits one of the most complex volcanic features on the Moon. To understand the subsurface three-dimensional density distribution under the Aristarchus plateau, we performed gravity inversion using high-resolution gravity data obtained from the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory mission. Our inversion results indicate the presence of a strong lateral density differentiation, with some positive and negative density anomalies possibly exhibiting a correlation with the volcanic features observed on the surface. A linear high-density anomaly near the Cobra Head magma source and an elliptical high-density anomaly both exactly match the surface basaltic exposures observable in the remote sensing data. We executed the density separation to extract low-density anomalies of the whole plateau and removed most of the density artifacts. The low-density anomalies display elevated terrain evidence of multiple “semi-ring” structures, suggesting the location of buried remnants of crater rims. The Aristarchus crater has a central low-density anomaly in the exact size and shape of the later-formed impact crater. This anomaly is consistent with the high crater porosity produced by extensive impact-generated fracturing and dilatant bulking, though the observed gravity and density anomalies are greater in magnitude than expected for this process. The remote sensing data expose high-silica material in the crater rim, implying that the young crater excavated an underlying layer containing both plagioclase and Si-rich materials, and indicating that the local uplift of feldspathic and/or silicic materials also contributes to the high amplitude of the low-density anomaly in the Aristarchus crater.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2023JE007856
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


  • basaltic underplating mechanism
  • gravity anomaly
  • intrusion rock
  • volcanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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