Central pit craters on Ganymede

Nathalia Alzate, Nadine G. Barlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Central pit craters are common on Mars, Ganymede and Callisto, and thus are generally believed to require target volatiles in their formation. The purpose of this study is to identify the environmental conditions under which central pit craters form on Ganymede. We have conducted a study of 471 central pit craters with diameters between 5 and 150. km on Ganymede and compared the results to 1604 central pit craters on Mars (diameter range 5-160. km). Both floor and summit pits occur on Mars whereas floor pits dominate on Ganymede. Central peak craters are found in similar locations and diameter ranges as central pit craters on Mars and overlap in location and at diameters <60. km on Ganymede. Central pit craters show no regional variations on either Ganymede or Mars and are not concentrated on specific geologic units. Central pit craters show a range of preservation states, indicating that conditions favoring central pit formation have existed since crater-retaining surfaces have existed on Ganymede and Mars. Central pit craters on Ganymede are generally about three times larger than those on Mars, probably due to gravity scaling although target characteristics and resolution also may play a role. Central pits tend to be larger relative to their parent crater on Ganymede than on Mars, probably because of Ganymede's purer ice crust. A transition to different characteristics occurs in Ganymede's icy crust at depths of 4-7. km based on the larger pit-to-crater-diameter relationship for craters in the 70-130-km-diameter range and lack of central peaks in craters larger than 60-km-diameter. We use our results to constrain the proposed formation models for central pits on these two bodies. Our results are most consistent with the melt-drainage model for central pit formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1274-1283
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • Cratering
  • Ganymede
  • Ices
  • Mars, Surface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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