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Prolonged eruptive history of a compound volcano on Mercury: Volcanic and tectonic implications

Abstract : A 27 × 13 km 'rimless depression' 100 km inside the southwest rim of the Caloris basin is revealed by high resolution orbital imaging under a variety of illuminations to consist of at least nine overlapping volcanic vents, each individually up to 8 km in diameter. It is thus a 'compound' volcano, indicative of localised migration of the site of the active vent. The vent floors are at a least 1 km below their brinks, but lack the flat shape characteristically produced by piston-like subsidence of a caldera floor or by flooding of a crater bottom by a lava lake. They bear a closer resemblance to volcanic craters sculpted by explosive eruptions and/or modified by collapse into void spaces created by magma withdrawal back down into a conduit. This complex of overlapping vents is at the summit of a subtle edifice at least 100 km across, with flank slopes of about only 0.2 degrees, after correction for the regional slope. This is consistent with previous interpretation as a locus of pyroclastic eruptions. Construction of the edifice could have been contributed to by effusion of very low viscosity lava, but high resolution images show that the vent-facing rim of a nearby impact crater is not heavily embayed as previously supposed on the basis of lower resolution flyby imaging. Contrasts in morphology (sharpness versus blurredness of the texture) and different densities of superposed sub-km impact craters inside each vent are consistent with (but do not prove) substantial differences in the age of the most recent activity at each vent. This suggests a long duration of episodic magmagenesis at a restricted locus. The age range cannot be quantified, but could be of the order of a billion years. If each vent was fed from the same point source, geometric considerations suggest a source depth of at least 50 km. However, the migration of the active vent may be partly controlled by a deep-seated fault that is radial to the Caloris basin. Other rimless depressions in this part of the Caloris basin fall on or close to radial lines, suggesting that elements of the Pantheon Fossae radial fracture system that dominates the surface of the central portion of the Caloris basin may continue at depth almost as far as the basin rim. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, November 26, 2014 - 3:24:28 PM
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D.A. Rothery, R.J. Thomas, Laura Kerber. Prolonged eruptive history of a compound volcano on Mercury: Volcanic and tectonic implications. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 2014, 385 (January), pp.59-67. ⟨10.1016/j.epsl.2013.10.023⟩. ⟨hal-01087721⟩



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