Numerical modelling of basin-scale impact crater formation

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Title: Numerical modelling of basin-scale impact crater formation
Author(s): Potter, Ross William Kerrill
Item Type: Thesis or dissertation
Abstract: Understanding of basin-scale crater formation is limited; only a few examples of basin-scale craters exist and these are difficult to access. The approach adopted in this research was to numerically model basin-scale impacts with the aim of understanding the basin-forming process and basin structure. Research was divided into: (1) investigating early stage formation processes (impactor survivability), (2) investigating later stage formation processes (excavation and modification) and basin structure, and (3) constraining an impact scenario for the largest lunar crater, the South Pole-Aitken Basin. Various impact parameters were investigated, quantifying their effect on the basin-forming process. Simulations showed impactor survivability, the fraction of impactor remaining solid during the impact process, greatly increased if the impactor was prolate in shape (vertical length > horizontal length) rather than spherical. Low (≲15 km/s) impact velocities and low impact angles (≲30 ) also noticeably increased survivability. Lunar basin-scale simulations removed a significant volume of crustal material during impact, producing thinner post-impact crustal layers than those suggested by gravity-derived basin data. Most simulations formed large, predominantly mantle, melt pools; inclusion of a steep target thermal gradient and high internal temperatures greatly influenced melt volume production. Differences in crustal thickness between simulations and gravity-derived data could be accounted for by differentiation of the voluminous impact-generated melt pools, predicted by the simulations, into new crustal layers. Assuming differentiation occurs, simulation results were used to predict features such as transient crater size for a suite of lunar basins and tentatively suggest lunar thermal conditions during the basin-forming epoch. Additional simulations concerned the formation of the South Pole-Aitken Basin. By constraining simulation results to geochemical and gravity-derived basin data, a best-fit impact scenario for the South Pole-Aitken Basin was found.
Publication Date: Jan-2012
Date Awarded: Mar-2012
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10044/1/9322
Advisor: Collins, Gareth
Author: Potter, Ross William Kerrill
Department: Earth Science and Engineering
Publisher: Imperial College London
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Qualification Name: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Appears in Collections:Earth Science and Engineering PhD theses



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