Widespread crater-related pitted materials on Mars: Further evidence for the role of target volatiles during the impact process

Livio L. Tornabene, Gordon R. Osinski, Alfred S. McEwen, Joseph M. Boyce, Veronica J. Bray, Christy M. Caudill, John A. Grant, Christopher W. Hamilton, Sarah Mattson, Peter J. Mouginis-Mark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Recently acquired high-resolution images of martian impact craters provide further evidence for the interaction between subsurface volatiles and the impact cratering process. A densely pitted crater-related unit has been identified in images of 204 craters from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. This sample of craters are nearly equally distributed between the two hemispheres, spanning from 53°S to 62°N latitude. They range in diameter from ~1 to 150. km, and are found at elevations between -5.5 to +5.2. km relative to the martian datum. The pits are polygonal to quasi-circular depressions that often occur in dense clusters and range in size from ~10. m to as large as 3. km. Pit sizes scale with both the host crater's diameter and the host deposit size. These pits have subtle raised rims, and unlike primary and secondary impact craters, they lack well-defined ejecta deposits and overlapping stratigraphic relationships. They also lack any sign of any preferential alignment expected of volcanic or tectonic collapse features. Morphologic and stratigraphic evidence in support of an impact origin includes the observation that pitted materials primarily occur as ponded and flow-like deposits on crater floors, behind terraces, and infilling the lowest local topographic depressions atop the ejecta blanket-similar to the distribution of impact melt-bearing bodies on the Moon. Based on the observations and comparisons to terrestrial and lunar analogs, we conclude that the pit-bearing materials are impactite deposits. The presence of these deposits in older craters, where preserved, suggests that they have formed on Mars throughout most of its geologic history; thus, understanding their origin may help to constrain the hydrological and climate history of Mars.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)348-368
Number of pages21
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • Cratering
  • Geological processes
  • Impact processes
  • Mars, Surface
  • Terrestrial planets

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Widespread crater-related pitted materials on Mars: Further evidence for the role of target volatiles during the impact process'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this