Turbulent Flow Over Craters on Mars: Vorticity Dynamics Reveal Aeolian Excavation Mechanism
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Impact craters are scattered across Mars. These craters exhibit geometric self-similarity over a spectrum of diameters, ranging from tens to thousands of kilometers. The late Noachian-early Hesperian boundary marks a dramatic shift in the role of mid-latitude craters, from depocenter sedimentary basins to aeolian source areas. At present day, many craters contain prominent layered sedimentary mounds with maximum elevations comparable to the rim height. The mounds are remnants of Noachian deposition and are surrounded by a radial moat. Large-eddy simulation has been used to model turbulent flows over synthetic craterlike geometries. Geometric attributes of the craters and the aloft flow have been carefully matched to resemble ambient conditions in the atmospheric boundary layer of Mars. Vorticity dynamics analysis within the crater basin reveals the presence of counterrotating helical vortices, verifying the efficacy of deflationary models put forth recently by Bennett and Bell . . . and Day et al. . . . We show how these helical counterrotating vortices spiral around the outer rim, gradually deflating the moat and carving the mound; excavation occurs faster on the upwind side, explaining the radial eccentricity of the mounds relative to the surrounding crater basin.