Usability of small impact craters on small surface areas in crater count dating: Analysing examples from the Harmakhis Vallis outflow channel, Mars
The availability of very high-resolution images has made it possible to extend crater size-frequency distribution studies to small, deca/hectometer-scale craters. This has enabled the dating of small and young surface units, as well as recent, short-time and small-scale geologic processes that have occurred on the units. Usually, however, the higher the spatial resolution of space images is, the smaller area is covered by the images. Thus the use of single, very high-resolution images in crater count age determination may be debatable if the images do not cover the studied region entirely.Here we compare the crater count results for the floor of the Harmakhis Vallis outflow channel obtained from the images of the ConTeXt camera (CTX) and High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The CTX images enable crater counts for entire units on the Harmakhis Vallis main valley, whereas the coverage of the higher-resolution HiRISE images is limited and thus the images can only be used to date small parts of the units. Our case study shows that the crater count data based on small impact craters and small surface areas mainly correspond with the crater count data based on larger craters and more extensive counting areas on the same unit. If differences between the results were founded, they could usually be explained by the regional geology. Usually, these differences appeared when at least one cratering model age is missing from either of the crater datasets. On the other hand, we found only a few cases in which the cratering model ages were completely different. We conclude that the crater counts using small impact craters on small counting areas provide useful information about the geological processes which have modified the surface. However, it is important to remember that all the crater counts results obtained from a specific counting area always primarily represent the results from the counting area-not the whole unit. On the other hand, together with crater count results from extensive counting areas and lower-resolution images, crater counts on small counting areas but by using very high-resolution images is a very valuable tool for obtaining unique additional information about the local processes on the surface units.