Field Mapping and Modeling of Terrestrial Lava Tube Magnetic Anomalies as an Analog for Lunar Lava Tube Exploration and Prospecting

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Bell, E., Schmerr, N., Young, K., Esmaeili, S., Garry, W. B., Jazayeri, S., et al. (2022). Field mapping and modeling of terrestrial lava tube magnetic anomalies as an analog for lunar lava tube exploration and prospecting. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 127, e2021JE007140.


Lava tubes are a commonplace feature on the terrestrial planets, and knowledge of tube size and location informs lava flow processes. Future exploration of lava tubes on the Moon can provide access to geologic environments that likely remain unaltered from their emplacement billions of years ago. Lunar lava tubes may also provide astronauts protection from thermal extremes, meteoroid impacts, and radiation. High-resolution magnetic identification and characterization of lava tubes can be used to help inform future scientific investigations of lava tubes for human exploration and utilization. We demonstrate how magnetometry is useful for determining the geometry and extent of lava tubes on the Earth and, by proxy, the Moon, by relating the magnetic anomalies produced by lava tubes to their location and geomorphology. Using a proton-precession total field magnetometer, we surveyed an area of more than 100,000 m2, with cross-tube linear traverses spaced at 3–5 m, perpendicular to an approximately 1,000 m length of the Modoc Crater lava tube complex, within the Lava Beds National Monument (California, USA). The observed magnetic anomalies of the sections known as Incline, Skull, and Ship Caves are compared against synthetic predictions, and the sensitivity of the magnetic anomalies to the tube geometry used to derive a basic relationship between the two. We use our model of terrestrial lava tube magnetic anomalies and adjust for the lunar magnetic environment to predict the signature of anomalies resulting from tubes on the Moon.