Relative depths of simple craters and the nature of the lunar regolith

Julie D. Stopar, Mark S. Robinson, Olivier S. Barnouin, Alfred S. McEwen, Emerson J. Speyerer, Megan R. Henriksen, Sarah S. Sutton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


We assessed the morphologies of more than 930 simple impact craters (diameters 40 m–10 km) on the Moon using digital terrain models (DTMs) of a variety of terrains in order to characterize the variability of fresh crater morphology as a function of crater diameter. From Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) DTMs, we determined depth-to-diameter (d/D) ratios for an extremely fresh set of these craters with diameters less than 400 m and found that their d/D ratios range from 0.11 to 0.17. Using both NAC and Kaguya Terrain Camera DTMs, we also determined the d/D ratios for the set of fresh simple craters larger than 400 m in diameter. The d/D ratios of these larger craters are typically near 0.21, as expected of gravity-dominated crater excavation. Fresh craters less than ∼400 m in diameter, on the other hand, exhibit significantly lower d/D ratios. Various possible factors affect the morphologies and relative depths (d/D ratios) of small strength-dominated craters, including impactor and target properties (e.g., effective strength, strength contrasts, porosity, pre-existing weaknesses), impact angle and velocity, and degradation state. While impact conditions resulting from secondary impacts can also affect crater morphologies, we found that d/D ratio alone was not a unique discriminator of small secondary craters. To investigate the relative influences of degradation and target properties on the d/D ratios of small strength-dominated craters, we examined a subset of fresh craters located on the geologically young rim deposits of Tycho crater. These craters are deeper and steeper than other craters of similar diameter and degradation state, consistent with their relative freshness and formation in the relatively coherent, melt-rich deposits in this region. The d/D ratios of globally distributed small craters of similar degradation state and size range, on the other hand, are relatively shallow with lower average wall slopes, consistent with crater excavation in a weak or poorly cohesive layer. The widespread predominance of these small, shallow craters is consistent with the pervasive, poorly cohesive upper regolith.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-48
Number of pages15
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • Impact processes
  • Moon
  • Regoliths
  • Surface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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