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Central Pit Craters on Mars and Ganymede

Friday, April 16, 2010
Barlow (NAU)

Central pit craters display central depressions and are common on Mars, Ganymede, and Callisto. Martian central pits can occur either directly on the floor of the crater ("floor pits") or atop a central rise or peak ("summit pits"), whereas central pits in craters on Ganymede and Callisto are always floor pits. Following the discovery of central pit craters in Viking and Voyager imagery, three formation models were proposed: vaporization of target volatiles during crater formation, collapse of a central peak, and excavation into subsurface liquid layers. A fourth model, drainage of melted target volatiles into the fragmented crust under the crater, has recently been proposed. This study is the first to use higher resolution data and conduct a direct comparison between central pit craters on Mars (an ice- rock crust) and Ganymede (ice crust). The study includes approximately 1670 Martian and 470 Ganymede central pit craters. Our analysis of diameter, distribution, and preservational state of these central pit craters provide new insights into the characteristics of these features and constraints on the proposed formation models.

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