Most assume the Earth’s crater record is heavily biased, with erosion/tectonics destroying older craters. This matches expectations, but is it actually true? To test this idea, we compared Earth’s crater record, where nearly all D ≥ 20 km craters are < 650 Myr old, to the Moon’s. Here lunar crater ages were computed using a new method employing LRO-Diviner temperature data. Large lunar rocks have high thermal inertia and remain warm through the night relative to the regolith. Analysis shows young craters with numerous meter-sized fragments are easy to pick out from older craters with eroded fragments. Moreover, an inverse relationship between rock abundance (RA) and crater age exists. Using measured RA values, we computed ages for 111 rocky craters with D ≥ 10 km that formed between 80°N and 80°S over the last 1 Gyr.We found several surprising results. First, the production rate of D ≥ 10 km lunar craters increased by a factor of 2.2 [-0.9, +4.4; 95% confidence limits] over the past 250 Myr compared to the previous 750 Myr. Thus, the NEO population is higher now than it has been for the last billion years. Second, the size and age distributions of lunar and terrestrial craters for D ≥ 20 km over the last 650 Myr have similar shapes. This implies that crater erasure must be limited on stable terrestrial terrains; in an average sense, for a given region, the Earth either keeps all or loses all of its D ≥ 20 craters at the same rate, independent of size. It also implies the observed deficit of large terrestrial craters between 250-650 Myr is not preservation bias but rather reflects a distinctly lower impact flux. We predict 355 ± 86 D ≥ 20 km craters formed on Earth over the last 650 Myr. Only 38 ± 6 are known, so the ratio, 10.7 ± 3.1%, is a measure of the Earth’s surface that is reasonably stable to large crater formation over 650 Myr. If erosion had dominated, the age distribution of terrestrial craters would be strongly skewed toward younger ages, which is not observed. We predict Chicxulub-type impacts were rare over the last Gyr, with the event 66 Ma a probable byproduct of the current high terrestrial impact flux.
AAS/Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting Abstracts #49
- Pub Date:
- October 2017