Could Pantheon Fossae be the result of the Apollodorus crater-forming impact within the Caloris basin, Mercury?
The ~ 40-km-diameter Apollodorus impact crater lies near the center of Pantheon Fossae, a complex of radiating linear troughs itself at the approximate center of the 1500-km-diameter Caloris basin on Mercury. Here we use a series of finite element models to explore the idea that the Apollodorus crater-forming impact induced the formation of radially oriented graben by altering a pre-existing extensional stress state. Graben in the outer portions of the Caloris basin, which display predominantly circumferential orientations, have been taken as evidence that the basin interior was in a state of horizontal extensional stress as a result of uplift. If the Apollodorus crater formed at the time of such a stress state, impact-induced damage to basin fill material would have caused basin material to move radially outward, leading to a decrease in the radial extensional stress and an increase in the circumferential stress. If this change in differential stress was sufficient to induce failure, the predicted style of faulting would be radial graben extending outward from the exterior crater rim. The ~ 230-km radial extent of Pantheon Fossae implies, by this scenario, that the Apollodorus impact generated a large damage zone, extending to perhaps three crater radii (~ 60 km) or more. The calculations also suggest, under this scenario, that the Caloris basin fill had greater strength than the surrounding crust and that the basin uplift and extensional stress field prior to the Apollodorus impact were close to azimuthally symmetric. The location of Pantheon Fossae very near the center of the Caloris basin appears to be coincidental; any crater similar in size to Apollodorus and located within ~ 300 km of the basin center could have produced a radiating set of graben by the mechanism explored here.