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Analyzing magnetic susceptibility and magnetic signals of lava tubes

Presentation #104.07 in the session Mission-supporting Practices, Modeling, and Data (Oral Presentation)

Published onOct 23, 2023
Analyzing magnetic susceptibility and magnetic signals of lava tubes

Numerous cave-like features have been identified on the surface of the Moon and Mars in recent years. These caves have been formed as a result of volcanism, tectonics and/or karst dissolution. Identifying subsurface voids and understanding their geometry is crucial for human exploration. These caves could, in the future, serve as location to host human bases and possess energy or water resources.

In this study we perform magnetic susceptibility measurements of lava tubes to characterize their magnetic signature and thermal cooling evolution. Then, this characterization can later be used to understand the magnetic signal measured at the surface and assist on estimating the geometry of the observed lava tube from the surface. For this, we performed field work at planetary analogs, such as Lava Beds National Monument (LBNM) in California, on the Island of Hawaii, on the northern flank of Mauna Loa and in Lanzarote (Canary Islands, Spain).

We used a Terraplus KT-10 magnetic susceptibility meter for the measurements and performed measurements in two different ways: 1) cross section values (from the surface towards the interior of the tube) and 2) along the walls of the lava tubes in different sections along each tube. Magnetic susceptibility values were taken every 5 cm for both cross section and wall, which is the highest resolution possible based on the KT-10 instrument.

We are working on two main aspects: 1) understanding the thermal cooling and formation history of the lava tubes by using the magnetic susceptibility correlation of the wall measurements and cross sections, and 2) using the magnetic susceptibility measured in the tube to build geometrical models that would fit the magnetic field signal collected with magnetometers on the surface. This combination provides the opportunity to develop more accurate and realistic geometrical models using magnetic field measurements and without the need of samples or physically accessing lava tubes, which is key for the future of human space exploration.

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