An integrated geophysical survey of Kilbourne Hole, southern New Mexico: Implications for near surface exploration of Mars and the Moon

Nisa Maksim, University of Texas at El Paso


Features such as the Home Plate plateau on Mars, a suspected remnant of an ancient phreatomagmatic eruption, can reveal important information about paleohydrologic conditions. The eruption intensity of a phreatomagmatic volcano is controlled mainly by the quantity of water and magma, the internal geometry of the volcano, and the depth of the interaction zone between magma and water. In order to understand the paleohydrologic conditions at the time of eruption, we must understand all the factors that influenced the phreatomagmatic event. I conducted an integrated geophysical survey, which are magnetic and gravity surveys, and a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) surveys at Kilbourne Hole, a phreatomagmatic crater in southern New Mexico. These investigations serve an analog paleo-hydrogeological study that could be conducted on Mars and the Moon with an implication for planetary exploration. These geophysical surveys are designed to delineate the internal structure of a phreatomagmatic volcano and to define the volumes and masses of volcanic dikes and excavation unit, the depth of feeder dikes, and impacted velocity of the volcanic blocks. For the gravity and magnetic surveys at Kilbourne Hole, I collected data at a total of 171 gravity survey stations and 166 magnetics survey stations. A 2D gravity and magnetic inverse model was developed jointly to map the body of the magma intrusions and the internal structure of Kilbourne Hole. A total of 6 GPR surveys lines were also completed at Kilbourne Hole to image and to define locations of pyroclastic deposits, volcanic sags and blocks, the sizes distribution of volcanic blocks, and the impact velocity of the volcanic blocks. Using the size distribution and impact velocity of volcanic blocks from our GPR data, I derived the initial gas expansion velocity and the time duration of the gas expansion phase of the Kilbourne Hole eruption. These obtained parameters (volumes, masses, and depths of the feeder dikes and the excavation zone, and the initial gas expansion velocity) are used to quantitatively calculate the mass, volume and condition of groundwater involved in the magma-water interaction process that caused Kilbourne Hole eruption. The joint gravity and magnetic 2D inversion reveals two main bodies of basaltic intrusion dike underneath Kilbourne Hole. The depth to the top of the dike is varied between 0.91 and 3.58 km from the ground surface. The models are able to delineate several complex areas of slumping blocks and collapsed crater, the area of the diatreme and the area of the original crater’s excavation. The estimated depth of the diatreme is ~13.6-15.8 km. The model shows that the tuff ring deposits extend 600 m to 1 km away from the crater rim and vary in thickness (50-150 m). Based on our 2D gravity and magnetic inverse models of Kilbourne Hole, we were able to calculate the mass of the magma and the final product of this research, which is the mass of water that fed the Kilbourne Hole eruption. The total mass of the magma (M m) is 1.38 ± 0.15 x 1013 kg and the mass of water (Mw) is (1.09 ± 0.31) x 10 13 kg. The water to rock mass ratio of the Kilbourne Hole eruption was 0.01-0-02. With the GPR surveys results, we estimate that the initial gas expansion velocity (V0) of the Kilbourne Hole eruption was 123 ± 9 m/s and the time duration of the gas expansion phase was 92 ± 11 s. The obtained initial gas expansion velocity and the depth of the dikes suggest that the eruption occurred at an initial pressure of 163 ± 9 bar. I also utilized the lunar gravity field measured by the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission to reconstruct the history of lunar mascon basin formation and magmatic activity. We hypothesize that a combination of uplifted lunar Moho, impact melt sheets, and brecciated crust creates the gravity signature of lunar mascon basins. To test this hypothesis, We performed low-pass and preferential filtering on the free-air anomaly map derived from GRAIL lunar gravity model GL0660A. Using the preferential filtering method, we isolated the gravity anomalies associated with structures at 16 km and 30 km depth where we can avoid high-frequency gravity signal from the highly impacted subsurface topography and mare basalt. We construct four 2D inversion models from the filtered gravity data to visualize the internal structure of lunar mascon basins. We conclude from our 2D inversion models that the parameters that determine the gravity signatures of mascon basins are: (1) the extent of the impact-melt sheet; (2) the depth to the mantle; and (3) the thickness and density of the surrounding crust.

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Recommended Citation

Maksim, Nisa, "An integrated geophysical survey of Kilbourne Hole, southern New Mexico: Implications for near surface exploration of Mars and the Moon" (2016). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10150768.