Mercury crater statistics from MESSENGER flybys: Implications for stratigraphy and resurfacing history
The primary crater population on Mercury has been modified by volcanism and secondary craters. Two phases of volcanism are recognized. One volcanic episode that produced widespread intercrater plains occurred during the period of the Late Heavy Bombardment and markedly altered the surface in many areas. The second episode is typified by the smooth plains interior and exterior to the Caloris basin, both of which have a different crater size-frequency distribution than the intercrater plains, consistent with a cratering record dominated by a younger population of impactors. These two phases may have overlapped as parts of a continuous period of volcanism during which the volcanic flux tended to decrease with time. The youngest age of smooth plains volcanism cannot yet be determined, but at least small expanses of plains are substantially younger than the plains associated with the Caloris basin. The spatial and temporal variations of volcanic resurfacing events can be used to reconstruct Mercury's geologic history from images and compositional and topographic data to be acquired during the orbital phase of the MESSENGER mission.