Send to

Choose Destination
Icarus. 1998 Dec;136(2):202-22.

Cratering rates on the Galilean satellites.

Author information

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California 94035, USA.


We exploit recent theoretical advances toward the origin and orbital evolution of comets and asteroids to obtain revised estimates for cratering rates in the jovian system. We find that most, probably more than 90%, of the craters on the Galilean satellites are caused by the impact of Jupiter-family comets (JFCs). These are comets with short periods, in generally low-inclination orbits, whose dynamics are dominated by Jupiter. Nearly isotropic comets (long period and Halley-type) contribute at the 1-10% level. Trojan asteroids might also be important at the 1-10% level; if they are important, they would be especially important for smaller craters. Main belt asteroids are currently unimportant, as each 20-km crater made on Ganymede implies the disruption of a 200-km diameter parental asteroid, a destruction rate far beyond the resources of today's asteroid belt. Twenty-kilometer diameter craters are made by kilometer-size impactors; such events occur on a Galilean satellite about once in a million years. The paucity of 20-km craters on Europa indicates that its surface is of order 10 Ma. Lightly cratered surfaces on Ganymede are nominally of order 0.5-1.0 Ga. The uncertainty in these estimates is about a factor of five. Callisto is old, probably more than 4 Ga. It is too heavily cratered to be accounted for by the current flux of JFCs. The lack of pronounced apex-antapex asymmetries on Ganymede may be compatible with crater equilibrium, but it is more easily understood as evidence for nonsynchronous rotation of an icy carapace.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center