Encyclopedia of Planetary Landforms

2015 Edition
| Editors: Henrik Hargitai, Ákos Kereszturi

Crater Chain (Impact, Primary)

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-3134-3_73


A linear crater chain is a regularly spaced row of three or more impact craters (for two craters  doublet crater) with similar sizes and apparently identical ages, formed by the impact of tidally disrupted bodies.


(Impact) crater row; Individual craters in a chain: catena craters;  Linear crater chain


Linear crater chains consist of strings of closely spaced roughly similar-sized aligned craters.


(1) Linear; (2)  doublet crater, if a “row” consists of two craters.


They likely originate from weak rubble pile asteroids or comets (fragile aggregates of large and small components held together by self-gravity or surface forces rather than material strength) tidally pulled apart during a close approach to a planet, separating into a train of fragments which then impacted a moon rather than escaping to interplanetary space.

Since there are no asteroids in the outer solar system, only comets can be the source of crater chains on giant planet...

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Maryland at College ParkCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.Lunar and Planetary InstituteHoustonUSA