A depth versus diameter scaling relationship for the best-preserved melt-bearing complex craters on Mars

Livio L. Tornabene, Wesley A. Watters, Gordon R. Osinski, Joseph M. Boyce, Tanya N. Harrison, Victor Ling, Alfred S. McEwen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


We use topographic data to show that impact craters with pitted floor deposits are among the deepest on Mars. This is consistent with the interpretation of pitted materials as primary crater-fill impactite deposits emplaced during crater formation. Our database consists of 224 pitted material craters ranging in size from ∼1 to 150 km in diameter. Our measurements are based on topographic data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) and the High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC). We have used these craters to measure the relationship between crater diameter and the initial post-formation depth. Depth was measured as maximum rim-to-floor depth, (dr), but we also report the depth measured using other definitions. The database was down-selected by refining or removing elevation measurements from “problematic” craters affected by processes and conditions that influenced their dr/D, such as pre-impact slopes/topography and later overprinting craters. We report a maximum (deepest) and mean scaling relationship of dr = (0.347 ± 0.021)D0.537 ± 0.017 and dr = (0.323 ± 0.017)D0.538 ± 0.016, respectively. Our results suggest that significant variations between previously-reported MOLA-based dr vs. D relationships may result from the inclusion of craters that: 1) are influenced by atypical processes (e.g., highly oblique impact), 2) are significantly degraded, 3) reside within high-strength regions, and 4) are transitional (partially collapsed). By taking such issues into consideration and only measuring craters with primary floor materials, we present the best estimate to date of a MOLA-based relationship of dr vs. D for the least-degraded complex craters on Mars. This can be applied to crater degradation studies and provides a useful constraint for models of complex crater formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-83
Number of pages16
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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