Morphometry of impact craters on Mercury from MESSENGER altimetry and imaging

H.C.M. Susorney, O.S. Barnouin, C.M. Ernst, C.L. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)
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Data acquired by the Mercury Laser Altimeter and the Mercury Dual Imaging System on the MESSENGER spacecraft in orbit about Mercury provide a means to measure the geometry of many of the impact craters in Mercury's northern hemisphere in detail for the first time. The combination of topographic and imaging data permit a systematic evaluation of impact crater morphometry on Mercury, a new calculation of the diameter Dt at which craters transition with increasing diameter from simple to complex forms, and an exploration of the role of target properties and impact velocity on final crater size and shape. Measurements of impact crater depth on Mercury confirm results from previous studies, with the exception that the depths of large complex craters are typically shallower at a given diameter than reported from Mariner 10 data. Secondary craters on Mercury are generally shallower than primary craters of the same diameter. No significant differences are observed between the depths of craters within heavily cratered terrain and those of craters within smooth plains. The morphological attributes of craters that reflect the transition from simple to complex craters do not appear at the same diameter; instead flat floors first appear with increasing diameter in craters at the smallest diameters, followed with increasing diameter by reduced crater depth and rim height, and then collapse and terracing of crater walls. Differences reported by others in Dt between Mercury and Mars (despite the similar surface gravitational acceleration on the two bodies) are confirmed in this study. The variations in Dt between Mercury and Mars cannot be adequately attributed to differences in either surface properties or mean projectile velocity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-193
Number of pages14
Early online date28 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


  • Mercury surface
  • Impact processes
  • Cratering


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