Numerical simulations of the flow produced by a comet impact on the Moon and its effects on ice deposition in cold traps



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The primary purpose of this study is to model the water vapor flow produced by a comet impact on the Moon using the Direct Simulation Monte Carlo (DSMC) method. Toward that end, our DSMC solver was modified in order to model the cometary water from the time of impact until it is either destroyed due to escape or photodestruction processes or captured inside one of the lunar polar cold traps. In order to model the complex flow induced by a comet impact, a 3D spherical parallel version of the DSMC method was implemented. The DSMC solver was also modified to take as input the solution from the SOVA hydrocode for the impact event at a fixed interface. An unsteady multi-domain approach and a collision limiting scheme were also added to the previous implementation in order to follow the water from the continuum regions near the point of impact to the much later rarefied atmospheric flow around the Moon. The present implementation was tested on a simple unsteady hemispherical expansion flow into a vacuum. For these simulations, the data at the interface were provided by a 1D analytical model instead of the SOVA solution. Good results were obtained downstream of the interface for density, temperature and radial velocity. Freezing of the vibrational modes was also observed in the transitional regime as the flow became collisionless. The 45° oblique impact of a 1 km radius ice sphere at 30 km/s was simulated up to several months after impact. Most of the water crosses the interface under 5 s moving mostly directly downstream of the interface. Most of the water escapes the gravity well of the Moon within the first few hours after impact. For such a comet impact, only ~3% of the comet mass remains on the Moon after impact. As the Moon rotates, the molecules begin to migrate until they are destroyed or captured in a cold trap. Of the 3% of the water remaining on the Moon after impact, only a small fraction, ~0.14% of the comet mass, actually reaches the cold traps; nearly all of the rest is photo-destroyed. Based on the surface area of the cold traps used in the present simulations, ~1 mm of ice would have accumulated in the polar cold traps after such an impact. Estimates for the total mass of water accumulated in the polar cold traps over one billion years are consistent with recent observations.