Special Reports

Mercury Cratering Record Viewed from MESSENGER's First Flyby

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Science  04 Jul 2008:
Vol. 321, Issue 5885, pp. 79-81
DOI: 10.1126/science.1159317

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Morphologies and size-frequency distributions of impact craters on Mercury imaged during MESSENGER's first flyby elucidate the planet's geological history. Plains interior to the Caloris basin displaying color and albedo contrasts have comparable crater densities and therefore similar ages. Smooth plains exterior to Caloris exhibit a crater density ∼40% less than on interior plains and are thus volcanic and not Caloris impact ejecta. The size distribution of smooth-plains craters matches that of lunar craters postdating the Late Heavy Bombardment, implying that the plains formed no earlier than 3.8 billion years ago (Ga). At diameters less than or equal to 8 to 10 kilometers, secondary impact craters on Mercury are more abundant than primaries; this transition diameter is much larger than that on the Moon or Mars. A low density of craters on the peak-ring basin Raditladi implies that it may be younger than 1 Ga.

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