Application of a New Method for Lunar Crater Age Dating to Copernican Impact Flux
Monday, 15 December 2014
The Moon’s surface, without any substantial atmosphere, weather, or tectonic activity, is a genuine time capsule for events taking place in our region of the Solar System. Previously, geological maps and crater counting methods were used for age determination for terrains and individual features, such as large craters and basins; however, those methods are extremely time consuming, are limited by image quality and availability and the need to identify small craters over datable regions, and are subject to systematic errors derived from uncertainty in the cratering function and small number statistics. We have recently shown that the rockiness of large craters’ ejecta, derived from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Diviner thermal radiometer data, provides a new method for determining the ages of Copernican craters (younger than roughly one billion years old). This method is not subject to the constraints of traditional crater counting methods using visible images. Here, we apply this new method to search for variations in the impact flux over the Copernican period. We investigate the size-frequency distributions and ejecta rock abundances of rocky craters five kilometers and larger, and compare the results to canonical relationships for Copernican craters. Because the lunar impact cratering rate is directly related to interactions among near-Earth objects and main belt asteroids, our results will provide a new platform for testing various dynamical hypotheses about the evolution of the asteroid belt and interactions within it.