Jet-induced 2-D crater formation with horizontal symmetry breaking

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We investigate the formation of a crater in a 2-D bed of granular material by a jet of impinging gas, motivated by the problem of a retrograde rocket landing on a planetary surface. The crater is characterized in terms of depth and shape as it evolves, as well as by the horizontal position of the bottom of the crater. The crater tends to grow logarithmically in time, a result which is common in related experiments. We also observe a horizontal symmetry breaking at certain well-defined conditions which, as we will demonstrate, could be of considerable practical concern for lunar or planetary landers. We present data on the evolution of these asymmetric states and attempt to give insights into the mechanism behind the symmetry-breaking bifurcation.

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This work was supported by ORBITEC (contract # OTC-GS-02381), subcontracted from USAF (contract # NNX09 CF72P) and by NASA contract. We particularly thank Dr. Phil Metzger for input on various aspects of the problem of crater formation.

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Correspondence to Abram H. Clark.

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Clark, A.H., Behringer, R.P. Jet-induced 2-D crater formation with horizontal symmetry breaking. Granular Matter 16, 433–440 (2014).

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  • Crater
  • Surface erosion
  • Logarithmic growth
  • Symmmetry breaking