Impact Craters on Venus: Initial Analysis from Magellan

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Science  12 Apr 1991:
Vol. 252, Issue 5003, pp. 288-297
DOI: 10.1126/science.252.5003.288


Magellan radar images of 15 percent of the planet show 135 craters of probable impact origin. Craters more than 15 km across tend to contain central peaks, multiple central peaks, and peak rings. Many craters smaller than 15 km exhibit multiple floors or appear in clusters; these phenomena are attributed to atmospheric breakup of incoming meteoroids. Additionally, the atmosphere appears to have prevented the formation of primary impact craters smaller than about 3 km and produced a deficiency in the number of craters smaller than about 25 km across. Ejecta is found at greater distances than that predicted by simple ballistic emplacement, and the distal ends of some ejecta deposits are lobate. These characteristics may represent surface flows of material initially entrained in the atmosphere. Many craters are surrounded by zones of low radar albedo whose origin may have been deformation of the surface by the shock or pressure wave associated with the incoming meteoroid. Craters are absent from several large areas such as a 5 million square kilometer region around Sappho Patera, where the most likely explanation for the dearth of craters is volcanic resurfacing. There is apparently a spectrum of surface ages on Venus ranging approximately from 0 to 800 million years, and therefore Venus must be a geologically active planet.