Effect of impact angle on vaporization


  • Peter H. Schultz


Impacts into easily vaporized targets such as dry ice and carbonates generate a rapidly expanding vapor cloud. Laboratory experiments performed in a tenuous atmosphere allow deriving the internal energy of this cloud through well-established and tested theoretical descriptions. A second set of experiments under near-vacuum conditions provides a second measure of energy as the internal energy converts to kinetic energy of expansion. The resulting data allow deriving the vaporized mass as a function of impact angle and velocity. Although peak shock pressures decrease with decreasing impact angle (referenced to horizontal), the amount of impact-generated vapor is found to increase and is derived from the upper surface. Moreover, the temperature of the vapor cloud appears to decrease with decreasing angle. These unexpected results are proposed to reflect the increasing roles of shear heating and downrange hypervelocity ricochet impacts created during oblique impacts. The shallow provenance, low temperature, and trajectory of such vapor have implications for larger-scale events, including enhancement of atmospheric and biospheric stress by oblique terrestrial impacts and impact recycling of the early atmosphere of Mars.