• Impact crater formation in icy layered terrains on Mars

      Senft, L. E.; Stewart, S. T. (The Meteoritical Society, 2008-01-01)
      We present numerical simulations of crater formation under Martian conditions with a single near-surface icy layer to investigate changes in crater morphology between glacial and interglacial periods. The ice fraction, thickness, and depth to the icy layer are varied to understand the systematic effects on observable crater features. To accurately model impact cratering into ice, a new equation of state table and strength model parameters for H2O are fitted to laboratory data. The presence of an icy layer significantly modifies the cratering mechanics. Observable features demonstrated by the modeling include variations in crater morphometry (depth and rim height) and icy infill of the crater floor during the late stages of crater formation. In addition, an icy layer modifies the velocities, angles, and volumes of ejecta, leading to deviations of ejecta blanket thickness from the predicted power law. The dramatic changes in crater excavation are a result of both the shock impedance and the strength mismatch between layers of icy and rocky materials. Our simulations suggest that many of the unusual features of Martian craters may be explained by the presence of icy layers, including shallow craters with well-preserved ejecta blankets, icy flow related features, some layered ejecta structures, and crater lakes. Therefore, the cratering record implies that near-surface icy layers are widespread on Mars.