Determining the age of Vaughan, a potential source crater for lunar meteorites, using boulder size-frequency distributions

K.A. Mistick, R.N. Watkins, B.L. Jolliff, R.R. Ghent, R.L. Korotev, R.A. Zeigler

Available online 20 January 2022,



• Vaughan is a very young, rocky, lunar crater located in the northern South Pole-Aitken basin.
• Boulder size-frequency distributions indicate an age < 25 Myr.
• Imagery-based rock abundance is consistent with thermophysically derived data.
• Compositional similarities suggest Vaughan as a potential lunar meteorite source crater in South Pole-Aitken basin.”

“We use Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) images to analyze the boulder distribution around Vaughan crater, a small, fresh crater on the far side of the Moon. Using six similar lunar impact craters of known age for comparison, we determine the approximate age of the crater. Vaughan crater lies in a part of the South Pole-Aitken basin that is compositionally similar to lunar meteorite Dhofar 961, on the basis of Lunar Prospector Gamma Ray Spectrometer data, making Vaughan crater a potential candidate for the source of this meteorite and possibly others paired with it. Boulder distributions reveal that as impact craters age, the boulder population density in their ejecta decreases. This understanding allows us to use size-frequency distributions to compare crater ages on the basis of their boulder population density. We find that Vaughan crater is very young (<25 Ma) owing to its placement within the boulder size-frequency comparison plot and its population of large (>10 m diameter) boulders. Additionally, we compare LROC NAC distributions to thermophysically derived values for rock abundance from the Diviner Lunar Radiometer. We find that our LROC NAC count is consistent with Diviner rock abundance values, which further supports the inference that Vaughan is a very young impact crater and could plausibly be a source of lunar meteorite Dhofar 961.”