Crater population on asteroid (101955) Bennu indicates impact armouring and a young surface

E. B. Bierhaus, D. Trang, R. T. Daly, C. A. Bennett, O. S. Barnouin, K. J. Walsh, R.-L. Ballouz, W. F. Bottke, K. N. Burke, M. E. Perry, E. R. Jawin, T. J. McCoy, H. C. Connolly Jr., M. G. Daly, J. P. Dworkin, D. N. DellaGiustina, P. L. Gay, J. I. Brodbeck, J. Nolau, J. Padilla, S. Stewart, S. Schwartz, P. Michel, M. Pajola & D. S. Lauretta

Nature Geoscience
Published: 07 April 2022


“The impactor-to-crater size scaling relationships that enable estimates of planetary surface ages rely on an accurate formulation of impactor–target physics. An armouring regime, specific to rubble-pile surfaces, has been proposed to occur when an impactor is comparable in diameter to a target surface particle (for example, a boulder). Armouring is proposed to reduce crater diameter, or prevent crater formation in the asteroid surface, at small crater diameters. Here, using measurements of 1,560 craters on the rubble-pile asteroid (101955) Bennu, we show that the boulder population controls a transition from crater formation to armouring at crater diameters ~2–3 m, below which crater formation in the bulk surface is increasingly rare. By combining estimates of impactor flux with the armouring scaling relationship, we find that Bennu’s crater retention age (surface age derived from crater abundance) spans from 1.6–2.2 Myr for craters less than a few meters to ~10–65 Myr for craters >100 m in diameter, reducing the maximum surface age by a factor of >15 relative to previous estimates. The range of crater retention ages, together with latitudinal variations in large-crater spatial density, indicate that ongoing resurfacing processes render the surface many times younger than the bulk asteroid.”