Central pit craters: Observations from Mars and Ganymede and implications for formation models

Nadine G. Barlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Central pit craters are common on ice-rich bodies, such as Mars, Ganymede, and Callisto. Mars and Ganymede represent the two end members regarding target characteristics (mixed ice and soil for Mars vs. almost pure ice for Ganymede). Comparisons of central pit craters on these two bodies can provide insights into the environmental conditions under which these craters form and provide constraints on the proposed formation models. This analysis includes 1604 central pit craters on Mars and 471 central pit craters on Ganymede. Martian central pit craters are divided into floor pits and summit pits, whereas all central pit craters on Ganymede are floor pits. Central pit craters form in similar-diameter ranges on both Mars and Ganymede when gravity differences are considered, and both bodies show no regional variations in pit crater distribution within the ±60° latitude zone. Martian floor pits are larger relative to their parent crater than summit pits, but the Ganymede pit/crater diameter ratio is larger than for either central pit type on Mars. Central pits have formed over the entire history of both bodies, and there is no indication that excavation depths have varied over time. Lack of crater floor updoming in Martian floor pit craters indicates that low concentrations of ice (estimated at ∼20%) still allow production of central pits. The results of this study argue against central peak collapse as the formation mechanism for central pit craters. Excavation into a subsurface liquid layer cannot be ruled out but is difficult to support based on the distributions and consistencies in excavation depth on both bodies. These results support the model of vaporization and gas escape for central pit formation on both Mars and Ganymede..

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-27
Number of pages13
JournalSpecial Paper of the Geological Society of America
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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