Brown University2014-11-05 2:10 PM

Subsurface failure in spherical bodies: A formation scenario for linear troughs on Vesta’s surface


•Hypervelocity impact experiments reveal time-resolved damage evolution in spherical targets.

•Models of small-scale experiments and large-scale impacts reveal common processes.

•Models show cause for sub-parallel failure planes as shear stress after shock wave.

•This study proposes that the large troughs on Vesta resulted from shear deformation.

•The orientation of damage structures can be used to constrain impact parameters.


Many asteroids in the Solar System exhibit unusual, linear features on their surface. The Dawn mission recently observed two sets of linear features on the surface of the asteroid 4 Vesta. Geologic observations indicate that these features are related to the two large impact basins at the south pole of Vesta, though no specific mechanism of origin has been determined. Further, the orientation of the features is offset from the center of the basins. Experimental and numerical results reveal that the offset angle is a natural consequence of oblique impacts into a spherical target. Here we demonstrate that a set of shear planes develops in the subsurface of the body opposite to the point of first contact. These subsurface failure zones then propagate to the surface under combined tensile-shear stress fields after the impact to create sets of approximately linear faults on the surface. Comparison between the orientation of damage structures in the laboratory and failure regions within Vesta can be used to constrain impact parameters (e.g., the approximate impact point and likely impact trajectory).

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