The detailed morphology of impact craters is now believed to be mainly caused by the collapse of a geometrically simple, bowl-shaped “transient crater.” The transient crater forms immediately after the impact. In small craters, those less than approximately 15 km diameter on the Moon, the steepest part of the rim collapses into the crater bowl to produce a lens of broken rock in an otherwise unmodified transient crater. Such craters are called “simple” and have a depth-to-diameter ratio near 1:5. Large craters collapse more spectacularly, giving rise to central peaks, wall terraces, and internal rings in still larger craters. These are called “complex” craters. The transition between simple and complex craters depends on 1/, suggesting that the collapse occurs when a strength threshold is exceeded. The apparent strength, however, is very low: only a few bars, and with little or no internal friction. This behavior requires a mechanism for temporary strength degradation in the rocks surrounding the impact site. Several models for this process, including acoustic fluidization and shock weakening, have been considered by recent investigations. Acoustic fluidization, in particular, appears to produce results in good agreement with observations, although better understanding is still needed.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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