Impact cratering in sandstone: The MEMIN pilot study on the effect of pore water


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Abstract– Planetary surfaces are subjected to meteorite bombardment and crater formation. Rocks forming these surfaces are often porous and contain fluids. To understand the role of both parameters on impact cratering, we conducted laboratory experiments with dry and wet sandstone blocks impacted by centimeter-sized steel spheres. We utilized a 40 m two-stage light-gas gun to achieve impact velocities of up to 5.4 km s−1. Cratering efficiency, ejection velocities, and spall volume are enhanced if the pore space of the sandstone is filled with water. In addition, the crater morphologies differ substantially from wet to dry targets, i.e., craters in wet targets are larger, but shallower. We report on the effects of pore water on the excavation flow field and the degree of target damage. We suggest that vaporization of water upon pressure release significantly contributes to the impact process.