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.
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.
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.
The Boulder Tracks thread is one of the most popular within the Moon Zoo forum and we have some amazing tracks posted there.
Boulder tracks are important to the Moon Zoo project – the following quote is from one of the Moon Zoo team members:
One of the main reasons we are asking Moon Zoo users to search for scars left behind by tumbling boulders is to help support future lunar exploration initiatives. Boulders that have rolled down hillsides from crater walls, or massifs like the Apollo 17 landing site, provide samples of geologic units that may be high up a hillside and thus difficult to access otherwise by a rover or a manned crew vehicle. If mission planning can include traverses to boulders that have rolled down hills, and we can track these boulders back up to the part of hillside from where they have originated, it provides a neat sampling strategy to accessing more geological units than would have been possible otherwise… Thus we hope to use Moon Zoo user data to produce a map of known boulder tracks (and terminal boulders) across the Moon. – Katie Joy
Recently ElisabethB (Els) posted the tracks shown below. Quite an amazing variety of track sizes and shapes! The track on the bottom appears to have mounds inside the track caused by the shape of the boulder that created the track.
Also, some of the tracks have craters overlapping them which may have been caused by the same impact. The original impact would have sent boulders bouncing and rolling along the regolith but would also have sent boulders upwards and they would have eventually fallen back and created craters.
The area where these tracks are found is Montes Alpes / Vallis Alpes.
Sun Angle: -62.71°
Scale: 0.51 meters / pixel
Zoom Level: 3