Crater counting is a method for estimating the age of a planet's surface. The method is based upon the assumptions that a new surface forms with zero impact craters, and that impact craters accumulate at some constant rate. The method has been calibrated using the ages of samples returned from the Moon.
Crater counting on Mars
The accuracy of age estimates of geologically young surfaces based on crater counting on Mars has been questioned due to formation of large amounts of secondary craters. In one case, the impact that created Zunil crater produced about a hundred secondary craters, some more than 1000 km from the primary impact. If similar impacts also produced comparable amounts of secondaries, it would mean a particular crater-free area of Mars had not been "splattered by a large, infrequent primary crater", as opposed to suffering relatively few small primary impacts since its formation.
- McEwen, A; Bierhaus, E (2006). "The importance of secondary cratering to age constraints on planetary surfaces". Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 34: 535–567. Bibcode:2006AREPS..34..535M. doi:10.1146/annurev.earth.34.031405.125018.
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