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Published March 1979 | public
Book Section - Chapter

Basaltic volcanism: The importance of planet size


The volumetrically abundant basalts on the earth, its moon, and the eucrite parent planet all have chemical compositions that are controlled to a large extent by dry, low-pressure, crystalliquid equilibria. Since this generalization is valid for these three planetary bodies, we infer that it may also apply to the other unsampled terrestrial planets. Other characteristics of basaltic volcanism show variations which appear to be related to planet size: the eruption temperatures, degrees of fractionation, and chemical variety of basalts and the endurance of basaltic volcanism all increase with planet size. Although the processes responsible for chemical differences between basalt suites are known, no simple systematization of the chemical differences between basalts from planet to planet has emerged.

Additional Information

© 1979 Pergamon Press. We thank J. A. Wood for making his data file on lunar compositions available to us. This work was undertaken in connection with the Basaltic Volcanism Study Project organized and administered by the Lunar and Planetary Institute/University Space Research Association under NASA contract NSR09-051-001. This paper is BVSP contribution number 39. This work was also supported by NASA grant NGL-22-007-247 and the Committee on Experimental Geology and Geophysics of Harvard University. We thank A. E. Bence, R. A. Coish and J. T. Wasson for their comments.

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