Dating very young planetary surfaces from crater statistics: A review of issues and challenges

1Jean-Pierre Williams, 2Carolyn H. van der Bogert, 3Asmin V. Pathare, 4Gregory G. Michael, 5Michelle R. Kirchoff, 2Harald Hiesinger
Meteoritics & Planetary Science (in Press) Link to Article [DOI: 10.1111/maps.12924]
1Department of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA
2Institut für Planetologie, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Münster, Germany
3Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona, USA
4Planetary Sciences and Remote Sensing, Institute of Geological Sciences, Freie Universitaet Berlin, Berlin, Germany
5Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado, USA
Published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons

Determining the ages of young planetary surfaces relies on using populations of small, often sub-km diameter impact craters due to the higher frequency at which they form. Smaller craters however can be less reliable for estimating ages as their size-frequency distribution is more susceptible to alteration with debate as to whether they should be used at all. With the current plethora of meter-scale resolution images acquired of the lunar and Martian surfaces, small craters have been widely used to derive model ages to establish the temporal relation of recent geologic events. In this review paper, we discuss the many factors that make smaller craters particularly challenging to use and should be taken into consideration when crater counts are confined to small crater diameters. Establishing confidence in a model age ultimately requires an understanding of the geologic context of the surface being dated as reliability can vary considerably and limitations of the dating technique should be considered in applying ages to any geologic interpretation.

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