Critical crater diameter and asteroid impact seismology

Erik Asphaug

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


If impact stress reverberation is the primary gradational process on an asteroid at global scales, then the largest undegraded crater records an asteroid's seismological response. The critical crater diameter Dcrit is defined as the smallest crater whose formation disrupts all previous craters globally up to its size; it is solved for by combining relationships for crater growth and for stress attenuation. The computation for Dcrit gives a simple explanation for the curious observation that small asteroids have only modest undegraded craters, in comparison to their size, whereas large asteroids have giant undegraded craters. Dcrit can even exceed the asteroid diameter, in which case all craters are "local" and the asteroid becomes crowded with giant craters. Dcrit is the most recent crater to have formed on a blank slate; when it is equated to the measured diameter of the largest undegraded crater on known asteroids, peak particle velocities are found to attenuate with the 1.2-1.3 power of distance - less attenuative than strong shocks, and more characteristic of powerful seismic disturbances. This is to be expected, since global degradation can result from seismic (cm. s-1) particle velocities on small asteroids. Attenuation, as modeled, appears to be higher on asteroids known to be porous, although these are also bodies for which different crater scaling rules might apply.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1075-1084
Number of pages10
JournalMeteoritics and Planetary Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Critical crater diameter and asteroid impact seismology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this