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Volcanism on the Moon

By Robert Wickman

Cones and Domes

While there are no large volcanoes on the Moon, a few smaller volcano-like features have been recognized. These features are mostly fairly small. Few are more than a few thousand feet (few hundred meters) high, or more than 6 to 10 miles (10 to 15 km) across. They are also somewhat irregular in outline, and most are not very striking in appearance. Few show any large central pit or vent structures, but many do have very small central pits or craters.

Marius Hills Rumker Hills
Gruitheisen Domes

These lunar constructs resemble small cinder cones and volcanic domes on the Earth. However, such cones and domes may form differently on the Earth and Moon. On the Earth, cinder cones form when small explosive eruptions pile up pieces of lava around a central vent. On the Moon, however, such eruptions will throw things much further, leaving little to pile up near the vent. Instead of a volcanic cone, such lunar eruptions should form a broad, thin layer around the central vent (a dark mantling deposit). Similarly, lava domes on Earth form from very thick, pasty lavas. Basaltic lavas are more liquid, and tend to form broad, flat lava flows. On the Moon, most of the domes and cones appear to be made of basalts. Thus, they can not have formed like Earth domes from thick, non-basaltic lavas. Instead, the lunar domes/cones may mark places where the erupted basalts were just barely molten.