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Journal of Geophysical Research

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Impact craters, Saturn (Planet) -- Satellites, Jupiter (Planet) -- Satellites


Impact experiments in Newtonian fluids with a range of viscosities of 10-3 to 60 Pa s demonstrate that transient prater volume and shape (depth-to-diameter: ratio) depend on target viscosity as well as on gravity. Volume is reduced, and depth-to-diameter ratio is increased for cratering events in which viscosity plays a dominant role. In addition to being affected by target kinematic viscosity, viscous scaling is most strongly influenced by projectile diameter, less strongly by projectile velocity, and least strongly by gravity. In a Planetary context, viscols effects can occur for craters formed by small or slow moving impacting bodies, low planetary surface densities, high surface viscosities, and low gravity values; conditions all likely for certain impacts into the icy satellites of Saturn and Jupiter, especially if liquid mantles were still present beneath solid crusts. Age dating based on crater counts and size-frequency distributions for these icy bodies may have to be modified to account for the possibility that viscosity-dominated craters were initially smaller and deeper than their gravity-controlled counterparts.


This is the publisher's final pdf. Originally published in Journal of Geophysical Research ( and is copyrighted by American Geophysical Union (

*At the time of publication Jonathan Fink was affiliated with Arizona State University

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