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9 - Impact Cratering of Mercury

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 December 2018

Sean C. Solomon
Affiliation:
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, New York
Larry R. Nittler
Affiliation:
Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington DC
Brian J. Anderson
Affiliation:
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland
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Summary

Impact craters are the dominant landform on Mercury and range from the largest basins to the smallest young craters.  Peak-ring basins are especially prevalent on Mercury, although basins of all forms are far undersaturated, probably the result of the extensive volcanic emplacement of intercrater plains and younger smooth plains between about 4.1 and 3.5 Ga.  This chapter describes the geology of the two largest well-preserved basins, Caloris and Rembrandt, and the three smaller Raditladi, Rachmaninoff, and Mozart basins.  We describe analyses of crater size–frequency distributions and relate them to populations of asteroid impactors (Late Heavy Bombardment in early epochs and the near-Earth asteroid population observable today during most of Mercury’s history), to secondary cratering, and to exogenic and endogenic processes that degrade and erase craters.  Secondary cratering is more important on Mercury than on other solar system bodies and shaped much of the surface on kilometer and smaller scales, compromising our ability to use craters for relative and absolute age-dating of smaller geological units.  Failure to find “vulcanoids” and satellites of Mercury suggests that such bodies played a negligible role in cratering Mercury.  We describe an absolute cratering chronology for Mercury’s geological evolution as well as its uncertainties. 
Type
Chapter
Information
Mercury
The View after MESSENGER
, pp. 217 - 248
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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