Small crater populations on Vesta

S. Marchi, W. F. Bottke, D. P. O'Brien, P. Schenk, S. Mottola, M. C. De Sanctis, D. A. Kring, David Williams, C. A. Raymond, C. T. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The NASA Dawn mission has extensively examined the surface of asteroid Vesta, the second most massive body in the main belt. The high quality of the gathered data provides us with a unique opportunity to determine the surface and internal properties of one of the most important and intriguing main belt asteroids (MBAs). In this paper, we focus on the size frequency distributions (SFDs) of sub-kilometer impact craters observed at high spatial resolution on several selected young terrains on Vesta. These small crater populations offer an excellent opportunity to determine the nature of their asteroidal precursors (namely MBAs) at sizes that are not directly observable from ground-based telescopes (i.e.; below ∼100m diameter). Moreover, unlike many other MBA surfaces observed by spacecraft thus far, the young terrains examined had crater spatial densities that were far from empirical saturation. Overall, we find that the cumulative power-law index (slope) of small crater SFDs on Vesta is fairly consistent with predictions derived from current collisional and dynamical models down to a projectile size of ∼10m diameter (e.g.; Bottke et al.; 2005a, b). The shape of the impactor SFD for small projectile sizes does not appear to have changed over the last several billions of years, and an argument can be made that the absolute number of small MBAs has remained roughly constant (within a factor of 2) over the same time period. The apparent steady state nature of the main belt population potentially provides us with a set of intriguing constraints that can be used to glean insights into the physical evolution of individual MBAs as well as the main belt as an ensemble.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-103
Number of pages8
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
StatePublished - Nov 15 2014


  • Asteroid (4) Vesta
  • Asteroid cratering
  • Asteroid evolution
  • Main belt asteroids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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