Nonuniform cratering of the terrestrial planets | INSTITUT DE PHYSIQUE DU GLOBE DE PARIS


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  Nonuniform cratering of the terrestrial planets

Type de publication:

Journal Article


Icarus, Volume 197, Ticket 1, p.291-306, doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2008.04.011 (2008)



impact cratering, Planétiologie et sciences spatiales


We estimate the impact flux and cratering rate as a function of latitude on the terrestrial planets using a model distribution of planet crossing asteroids and comets [Bottke, W.F., Morbidelli, A., Jedicke, R., Petit, J.-M., Levison, H.F., Michel, P., Metcalfe, T.S., 2002. Icarus 156, 399–433]. After determining the planetary impact probabilities as a function of the relative encounter velocity and encounter inclination, the impact positions are calculated analytically, assuming the projectiles follow hyperbolic paths during the encounter phase. As the source of projectiles is not isotropic, latitudinal variations of the impact flux are predicted: the calculated ratio between the pole and equator is 1.05 for Mercury, 1.00 for Venus, 0.96 for the Earth, 0.90 for the Moon, and 1.14 for Mars over its long-term obliquity variation history. By taking into account the latitudinal dependence of the impact velocity and impact angle, and by using a crater scaling law that depends on the vertical component of the impact velocity, the latitudinal variations of the cratering rate (the number of craters with a given size formed per unit time and unit area) is in general enhanced. With respect to the equator, the polar cratering rate is about 30% larger on Mars and 10% on Mercury, whereas it is 10% less on the Earth and 20% less on the Moon. The cratering rate is found to be uniform on Venus. The relative global impact fluxes on Mercury, Venus, the Earth and Mars are calculated with respect to the Moon, and we find values of 1.9, 1.8, 1.6, and 2.8, respectively. Our results show that the relative shape of the crater size-frequency distribution does not noticeably depend upon latitude for any of the terrestrial bodies in this study. Nevertheless, by neglecting the expected latitudinal variations of the cratering rate, systematic errors of 20–30% in the age of planetary surfaces could exist between equatorial and polar regions when using the crater chronology method.