The Global Contribution of Secondary Craters on the Icy Satellites

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Trudi Hoogenboom1, Katherine E Johnson2 and Paul Schenk1, (1)Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, TX, United States, (2)Rice University, Houston, TX, United States
At present, surface ages of bodies in the Outer Solar System are determined only from crater size–frequency distributions (a method dependent on an understanding of the projectile populations responsible for impact craters in these planetary systems). To derive accurate ages using impact craters, the impactor population must be understood. Impact craters in the Outer Solar System can be primary, secondary or sesquinary. The contribution of secondary craters to the overall population has recently become a “topic of interest.”

Our objective is to better understand the contribution of dispersed secondary craters to the small crater populations, and ultimately that of small comets to the projectile flux on icy satellites in general. We measure the diameters of obvious secondary craters (determined by e.g. irregular crater shape, small size, clustering) formed by all primary craters on Ganymede for which we have sufficiently high resolution data to map secondary craters. Primary craters mapped range from approximately 40 km to 210 km. Image resolution ranges from 45 to 440 m/pixel. Bright terrain on Ganymede is our primary focus. These resurfaced terrains have relatively low crater densities and serve as a basis for characterizing secondary populations as a function of primary size on an icy body for the first time.

Although focusing on Ganymede, we also investigate secondary crater size, frequency, distribution, and formation, as well as secondary crater chain formation on icy satellites throughout the Saturnian and Jovian systems principally Rhea. We compare our results to similar studies of secondary cratering on the Moon and Mercury.

Using Galileo and Voyager data, we have identified approximately 3,400 secondary craters on Ganymede. In some cases, we measured crater density as a function of distance from a primary crater. Because of the limitations of the Galileo data, it is necessary to extrapolate from small data sets to the global population of secondary craters. Nonetheless, we confirm that secondary craters on Ganymede have narrow size–frequency distributions and that they correlate with primary crater diameter. From these data we will evaluate the contribution of secondary craters over a range of crater diameters.