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High-Resolution Calculations of Asteroid Impacts into the Venusian Atmosphere

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1006/icar.2000.6426


Abstract We present results from a number of 2D high-resolution hydrodynamical simulations of asteroids striking the atmosphere of Venus. These cover a wide range of impact parameters (velocity, size, and incidence angle), but the focus is on 2–3 km diameter asteroids, as these are responsible for most of the impact craters on Venus. Asteroids in this size range are disintegrated, ablated, and significantly decelerated by the atmosphere, yet they retain enough impetus to make large craters when they meet the surface. We find that smaller impactors (diameter <1–2 km) are better described by a “pancaking” model in which the impactor is compressed and distorted, while for larger impactors (>2–3 km) fragmentation by mechanical ablation is preferred. The pancaking model has been modified to take into account effects of hydrodynamical instabilities. The general observation that most larger impactors disintegrate by shedding fragments generated from hydrodynamic instabilities spurs us to develop a simple heuristic model of the mechanical ablation of fragments based on the growth rates of Rayleigh–Taylor instabilities. Although in principle the model has many free parameters, most of these have little effect provided that they are chosen reasonably. In practice the range of model behavior can be described with one free parameter. The resulting model reproduces the mass and momentum fluxes rather well, doing so with reasonable values of all physical parameters.

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