Investigation and modelling of large scale cratering events: Lessons learnt from experimental analysis

Alison Gibbings, Eirini Komninou, Massimiliano Vasile

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Initiated as part of the 2010 Spin Your Thesis campaign, a new ESA Education programme, a group from the University of Glasgow Space Advanced Research Team successfully conducted a series of impact cratering experiments under a highly accelerated reference frame. This aimed to: reproduce and define the physical conditions of large-scale cratering events onto highly porous asteroids; provide cratering response data for the validation and
advancement of numerical models; and support the generation of a reliable scaling theory for cratering events. Impact cratering is a fundamental process that has shaped and continues to shape the formation and evolution of our
solar system and other planetary systems. Although much is known on the impact dynamics of rocky, brittle bodies, such as asteroids, little is known on the physical response of highly porous bodies. Consequently the physical
response of porous bodies can not be compared to conventional models. Therefore throughout the experiment campaign, variation into the target material’s porosity and projectile density was examined. All in-situ
measurements were recorded relative to the crater’s morphological profile and ejecta distribution. This occurred under increasing levels of acceleration, thereby validating that the experiment occurred within the crater dominated
gravity regime. This paper details the programmatics issues of the initiative, experiences and lessons learnt from the student perspective. From its initial proof-of-concept the Spin Your Thesis campaign provided a solid foundation
from the development of an experimental idea, enabling high scientific return and personal development.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2011
Event62nd International Astronautical Congress 2011 - Cape Town, South Africa
Duration: 3 Oct 20117 Oct 2011


Conference62nd International Astronautical Congress 2011
Country/TerritorySouth Africa
CityCape Town


  • modelling and assessment
  • large scale cratering
  • experimental analysis


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