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Structure of Sierra Madera, Texas, as a guide to central peaks of lunar craters

December 31, 1972

Like hundreds of other lunar craters of probable impact origin, Copernicus contains central peaks presumed to expose rocks uplifted from beneath the crater floor. A possible analog of these peaks on Earth is the central uplift of the Sierra Madera cryptoexplosion structure, a probable impact scar (astrobleme) in stratified Permian and Cretaceous rocks of west Texas. The most conspicuous part of this 12-km-wide structure is its central uplift, 6 to 8 km across, in which the oldest rocks have been raised 1,200 m above their normal position. The uplift is surrounded by a structural depression, beyond which is a concentric rim containing some folds and circumferential normal faults with downthrow toward the center. The intensity of folding and faulting increases inward from the flanks of the central uplift toward a central zone about 2 km across where dips and fold plunges are near vertical or overturned. As in salt domes, the beds moved inward as well as upward to occupy their present positions, causing faulting and radial folding due to crowding in the center. Repetition by folding due to inward movement of upper beds over lower appears to have been followed by upward movement of the core of the uplift pulling away from the flanks by faulting. Minor outward-directed thrusting may have been caused by gravitational spreading of the rising dome. The structural depression surrounding the uplift resulted from tectonic thinning accompanying the inward movement of rocks in the uplift.

Analogy with experimental craters and with other cryptoexplosion structures indicates that the uplift at Sierra Madera protruded into a crater (since destroyed by erosion) that was about 12 km across. Inasmuch as the rocks forming such uplifts are derived from below the crater floors, analogous peaks in lunar craters such as Copernicus may offer samples of lunar crust uplifted from distances below the crater floor on the order of one-tenth of the crater diameter.

Publication Year 1972
Title Structure of Sierra Madera, Texas, as a guide to central peaks of lunar craters
DOI 10.1130/0016-7606(1972)83[2795:SOSMTA]2.0.CO;2
Authors Keith A. Howard, Terry W. Offield, H. G. Wilshire
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title GSA Bulletin
Index ID 70198184
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center