The University of Arizona

Review of the population of impactors and the impact cratering rate in the inner solar system

P. MICHEL, A. MORBIDELLI

Abstract


All terrestrial planets, the Moon, and small bodies of the inner solar system are subjected to impacts on their surface. The best witness of these events is the lunar surface, which kept the memory of the impacts that it underwent during the last 3.8 Gyr. In this paper, we review the recent studies at the origin of a reliable model of the impactor population in the inner solar system, namely the near-Earth object (NEO) population. Then we briefly expose the scaling laws used to relate a crater diameter to body size. The model of the NEO population and its impact frequency on terrestrial planets is consistent with the crater distribution on the lunar surface when appropriate scaling laws are used. Concerning the early phases of our solar systems history, a scenario has recently been proposed that explains the origin of the Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB) and some other properties of our solar system. In this scenario, the four giant planets had initially circular orbits, were much closer to each other, and were surrounded by a massive disk of planetesimals. Dynamical interactions with this disk destabilized the planetary system after 500-600 Myr. Consequently, a large portion of the planetesimal disk, as well as 95% of the Main Belt asteroids, were sent into the inner solar system, causing the LHB while the planets reached their current orbits. Our knowledge of solar system evolution has thus improved in the last decade despite our still-poor understanding of the complex cratering process.

Keywords


Scaling;asteroid impacts;impact cratering;lunar cataclysm

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