Impact craters

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Impact craters

Post  meodingu on Tue Oct 12, 2010 11:27 am


Impact craters
See also: List of craters on the Moon
A grey, many-ridged surface from high above. The largest feature is a circular ringed structure with high walled sides and a lower central peak: the entire surface out to the horizon is filled with similar structures that are smaller and overlapping.
Lunar crater Daedalus on the Moon's far side

The other major geologic process that has affected the Moon's surface is impact cratering,[46] with craters formed when asteroids and comets collide with the lunar surface. There are estimated to be roughly 300,000 craters wider than 1 km on the Moon's near side alone.[47] These are named for scholars, scientists, artists and explorers.[48] The lunar geologic timescale is based on the most prominent impact events, including Nectaris, Imbrium, and Orientale, structures characterized by multiple rings of uplifted material, typically hundreds to thousands of kilometres in diameter and associated with a broad apron of ejecta deposits that form a regional stratigraphic horizon.[49] The lack of an atmosphere, weather and recent geological processes mean that many of these craters are well-preserved. While only a few multi-ring basins have been definitively dated, they are useful for assigning relative ages. Since impact craters accumulate at a nearly constant rate, counting the number of craters per unit area can be used to estimate the age of the surface.[49] The radiometric ages of impact-melted rocks collected during the Apollo missions cluster between 3.8 and 4.1 billion years old: this has been used to propose a Late Heavy Bombardment of impacts.[50]

Blanketed on top of the Moon's crust is a highly comminuted (broken into ever smaller particles) and impact gardened surface layer called regolith, formed by impact processes. The finer regolith, the lunar soil of silicon dioxide glass, has a texture like snow and smell like spent gunpowder.[51] The regolith of older surfaces is generally thicker than for younger surfaces: it varies in thickness from 10–20 m in the highlands and 3–5 m in the maria.[52] Beneath the finely comminuted regolith layer is the megaregolith, a layer of highly fractured bedrock many kilometres thick.[53]





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