Exploding Boulders!

We are used to seeing boulder tracks on Moon Zoo and often come across (or actively go hunting for!) the boulder that caused them. Usually we find something like these large intact boulders having come to rest at the end of their tracks.

highlighted by placidstorm and kodemunkey

Moon Zoo team member Dr Anthony Cook recently sent me this picture of two boulder tracks in Schiller crater:

In this case the boulders are far from intact and appear to have “exploded” at the end of their journeys. What might have caused these boulders to fracture and fragment? One theory Tony suggested was that due to being under tension the boulders might have fractured before they rolled down the slope and that the movement further weakened them. Then over time the extreme temperature variations between lunar day and night could have fragmented the weakened rocks resulting in the appearance we see in the image.

Tony said:

Quote

I’m a bit puzzled though why the one on the top left has rock debris so far away from the centre. The boulder that looks like a skull rock on the bottom right has debris a lot closer to it, that could simply be explained by bits falling off as one would expect from the explanation above.

An alternative theory is that the boulders did roll down the hill intact, but were of sufficient size, area and age to be impacted by later meteorites, and these high velocity impacts split the rocks into many pieces. However, as Tony points out, the chances of this happening to two large rocks next to each other seem a bit remote.

Here is the NAC image M109502471L and the LROC article “A Recent Journey.”

In order to study this process in more detail we need more examples. So if you find any exploded (or partly exploded) boulders please post them on the forum here.


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