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ISSN  2096-3955

CN  10-1502/P

Citation: Xi, X. Y., Ding, M., and Zhu, M. H. (2022). Groove formation on Phobos from reimpacting orbital ejecta of the Stickney crater. Earth Planet. Phys., 6(3), 294–303.

2022, 6(3): 294-303. doi: 10.26464/epp2022027


Groove formation on Phobos from reimpacting orbital ejecta of the Stickney crater


State Key Laboratory of Lunar and Planetary Sciences, Macau University of Science and Technology, Macau, China


China National Space Administration, Macau Center for Space Exploration and Science, Macau, China

Corresponding author: Min Ding,

Received Date: 2021-12-16
Web Publishing Date: 2022-04-18

Numerous linear grooves have long been recognized as covering the surface of Phobos, but the mechanisms of their formation are still unclear. One possible mechanism is related to the largest crater on Phobos, the Stickney crater, whose impact ejecta may slide, roll, bounce, and engrave groove-like features on Phobos. When the launch velocity is higher than the escape velocity, the impact ejecta can escape Phobos. A portion of these high-velocity ejecta are dragged by the gravitational force of Mars, fall back, and reimpact Phobos. In this research, we numerically test the hypothesis that the orbital ejecta of the Stickney crater that reimpact Phobos could be responsible for a particular subset of the observed grooves on Phobos. We adopt impact hydrocode iSALE-2D (impact-Simplified Arbitrary Lagrangian Eulerian, two-dimensional) to simulate the formation of the Stickney crater and track its impact ejecta, with a focus on orbital ejecta with launch velocities greater than the escape velocity of Phobos. The launch velocity distribution of the ejecta particles is then used to calculate their trajectories in space and determine their fates. For orbital ejecta reimpacting Phobos, we then apply the sliding boulder model to calculate the ejecta paths, which are compared with the observed groove distribution and length to search for causal relationships. Our ejecta trajectory calculations suggest that only ~1% of the orbital ejecta from the Stickney crater can reimpact Phobos. Applying the sliding boulder model, we predict ejecta sliding paths of 9−20 km in a westward direction to the east of the zone of avoidance, closely matching the observed grooves in that region. The best-fit model assumes an ejecta radius of ~150 m and a speed restitution coefficient of 0.3, consistent with the expected ejecta and regolith properties. Our calculations thus suggest the groove class located to the east of the zone of avoidance may have been caused by reimpact orbital ejecta from the Stickney crater.

Key words: Phobos, groove formation, Stickney crater, reimpact ejecta

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Groove formation on Phobos from reimpacting orbital ejecta of the Stickney crater

XiangYu Xi, Min Ding, MengHua Zhu