Impacts into quartz sand: Crater formation, shock metamorphism, and ejecta distribution in laboratory experiments and numerical models.

Wünnemann, K., Zhu, M.-H. and Stöffler, D.

Meteoritics & Planetary Science. doi: 10.1111/maps.12710


“We investigated the ejection mechanics by a complementary approach of cratering experiments, including the microscopic analysis of material sampled from these experiments, and 2-D numerical modeling of vertical impacts. The study is based on cratering experiments in quartz sand targets performed at the NASA Ames Vertical Gun Range. In these experiments, the preimpact location in the target and the final position of ejecta was determined by using color-coded sand and a catcher system for the ejecta. The results were compared with numerical simulations of the cratering and ejection process to validate the iSALE shock physics code. In turn the models provide further details on the ejection velocities and angles. We quantify the general assumption that ejecta thickness decreases with distance according to a power-law and that the relative proportion of shocked material in the ejecta increase with distance. We distinguish three types of shock metamorphic particles (1) melt particles, (2) shock lithified aggregates, and (3) shock-comminuted grains. The agreement between experiment and model was excellent, which provides confidence that the models can predict ejection angles, velocities, and the degree of shock loading of material expelled from a crater accurately if impact parameters such as impact velocity, impactor size, and gravity are varied beyond the experimental limitations. This study is relevant for a quantitative assessment of impact gardening on planetary surfaces and the evolution of regolith layers on atmosphereless bodies.”