Generation and emplacement of fine-grained ejecta in planetary impacts

Rebecca R. Ghent, V. Gupta, B. A. Campbell, S. A. Ferguson, J. C.W. Brown, R. L. Fergason, L. M. Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


We report here on a survey of distal fine-grained ejecta deposits on the Moon, Mars, and Venus. On all three planets, fine-grained ejecta form circular haloes that extend beyond the continuous ejecta and other types of distal deposits such as run-out lobes or ramparts. Using Earth-based radar images, we find that lunar fine-grained ejecta haloes represent meters-thick deposits with abrupt margins, and are depleted in rocks 1cm in diameter. Martian haloes show low nighttime thermal IR temperatures and thermal inertia, indicating the presence of fine particles estimated to range from ∼10μm to 10mm. Using the large sample sizes afforded by global datasets for Venus and Mars, and a complete nearside radar map for the Moon, we establish statistically robust scaling relationships between crater radius R and fine-grained ejecta run-out r for all three planets. On the Moon, ∼R-0.18 for craters 5-640km in diameter. For Venus, radar-dark haloes are larger than those on the Moon, but scale as ∼R-0.49, consistent with ejecta entrainment in Venus' dense atmosphere. On Mars, fine-ejecta haloes are larger than lunar haloes for a given crater size, indicating entrainment of ejecta by the atmosphere or vaporized subsurface volatiles, but scale as R-0.13, similar to the ballistic lunar scaling. Ejecta suspension in vortices generated by passage of the ejecta curtain is predicted to result in ejecta run-out that scales with crater size as R1/2, and the wind speeds so generated may be insufficient to transport particles at the larger end of the calculated range. The observed scaling and morphology of the low-temperature haloes leads us rather to favor winds generated by early-stage vapor plume expansion as the emplacement mechanism for low-temperature halo materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)818-835
Number of pages18
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Cratering
  • Mars
  • Moon
  • Radar observations
  • Venus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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