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The Anatomy of the Blue Dragon: Changes in Lava Flow Morphology and Physical Properties Observed in an Open Channel Lava Flow as a Planetary Analogue
The Anatomy of the Blue Dragon: Changes in Lava Flow Morphology and Physical Properties Observed in an Open Channel Lava Flow as a Planetary Analogue

Alexander Sehlke NPP Fellowship/USRA

The transition of lava flows from smooth pahoehoe to rough `a`a is commonly documented for Hawaiian lavas, and is governed by the rheological conditions of the lava.

The rheology of the lava itself depends on the physical properties, such as temperature, density, and crystallinity, and therefore should also apply to any other type of lava.  As part of NASA’s FINESSE project (P.I. Jennifer Heldmann), this study explores the relationship between rheology, physical properties, and lava flow morphology for a channelized lava flow at the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Idaho. Field and laboratory techniques, namely mapping of lava flow morphology, UAV imagery for digital topography models at cm-scale resolution, sample collection and their petrographic descriptions, as well as viscosity measurements, are being used to evaluate the relation between lava flow morphology and physical properties of the lava. Results demonstrate that the hypothesis is true, and that morphology corresponds to specific values in physical properties. Therefore, tying lava flow morphology (expressed as surface roughness) to physical properties can be used to infer these for lava flows on Earth and other planetary bodies, such as the Moon, Mars, Mercury, and Venus.

 

Point of contact: delia.santiago-materese@nasa.gov

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