Hypervelocity impacts into ice‐topped layered targets: Investigating the effects of ice crust thickness and subsurface density on crater morphology

Harriss, K.H. and Burchell, Mark J. (2017) Hypervelocity impacts into ice‐topped layered targets: Investigating the effects of ice crust thickness and subsurface density on crater morphology. Meteoritics and Planetary Science, 52 (7). pp. 1505-1522. ISSN 1086-9379. (doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/maps.12913) (Full text available)

PDF - Publisher pdf

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Download (884kB) Preview
Official URL


Many bodies in the outer solar system are theorized to have an ice shell with a different subsurface material below, be it chondritic, regolith, or a subsurface ocean. This layering can have a significant influence on the morphology of impact craters. Accordingly, we have undertaken laboratory hypervelocity impact experiments on a range of multilayered targets, with interiors of water, sand, and basalt. Impact experiments were undertaken using impact speeds in the range of 0.8–5.3 km s−1, a 1.5 mm Al ball bearing projectile, and an impact incidence of 45°. The surface ice crust had a thickness between 5 and 50 mm, i.e., some 3–30 times the projectile diameter. The thickness of the ice crust as well as the nature of the subsurface layer (liquid, well consolidated, etc.) have a marked effect on the morphology of the resulting impact crater, with thicker ice producing a larger crater diameter (at a given impact velocity), and the crater diameter scaling with impact speed to the power 0.72 for semi-infinite ice, but with 0.37 for thin ice. The density of the subsurface material changes the structure of the crater, with flat crater floors if there is a dense, well-consolidated subsurface layer (basalt) or steep, narrow craters if there is a less cohesive subsurface (sand). The associated faulting in the ice surface is also dependent on ice thickness and the substrate material. We find that the ice layer (in impacts at 5 km s−1) is effectively semi-infinite if its thickness is more than 15.5 times the projectile diameter. Below this, the crater diameter is reduced by 4% for each reduction in ice layer thickness equal to the impactor diameter. Crater depth is also affected. In the ice thickness region, 7–15.5 times the projectile diameter, the crater shape in the ice is modified even when the subsurface layer is not penetrated. For ice thicknesses, <7 times the projectile diameter, the ice layer is breached, but the nature of the resulting crater depends heavily on the subsurface material. If the subsurface is noncohesive (loose) material, a crater forms in it. If it is dense, well-consolidated basalt, no crater forms in the exposed subsurface layer.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Q Science > QB Astronomy > QB651 Planets, Minor
Divisions: Faculties > Sciences > School of Physical Sciences
Faculties > Sciences > School of Physical Sciences > Centre for Astrophysics and Planetary Sciences
Depositing User: Kathryn Harriss
Date Deposited: 12 Jul 2017 13:04 UTC
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2017 09:14 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/61824 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Harriss, K.H.: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5854-580X
  • Depositors only (login required):


Downloads per month over past year