As part of my master's thesis, I am studying doublet craters (simultaneous, adjacent impacts of two bodies) on the Dwarf Planet Ceres, using imagery captured by the Dawn spacecraft.  It is my hope that learning more about these impact events can help constrain the frequency, sizes, and orbital characteristics of binary asteroids in the Main Belt. I look forward to doing similar work using Dawn images of 4 Vesta, the second-largest asteroid in the Solar system. I plan to use this blog to accomplish a few things: Document my scientific journey Share information I find about doublet craters and binary asteroids throughout the Solar system Give myself an additional reason to keep reading articles related to my research I make no guarantees as to the frequency or regularity of posts... my personal history would indicate that posts will come in bumper harvests separated by fallow periods. Enjoy! Paul Wren

Master's Thesis Defended!

Well, it's done. I successfully defended my thesis, and it has been filed with ProSource.  It did not include all of the work I wanted to put in there, but as my advisor says: "Theses and dissertations are never finished-- they are abandoned." At least my committee found it to be adequate. You can find it here: Constraining the Small Binary Asteroid Population of the Main Belt Using Doublet Craters on Ceres .

JMARS Provides Some Useful Tools for Analyzing Impact Craters

Recently I attended the 8th Meeting of the Planetary Crater Consortium in Flagstaff, AZ.  I presented my latest research in this fairly informal setting (questions from the audience are encouraged during presentations), and received some extremely valuable feedback.  You can see the abstracts from the meeting here . I also presented a poster about using JMARS for impact crater analysis. I don'y want to just repeat everything that is on the poster, so here is a small version (and you can also click here to get to a larger one): Not familiar with JMARS? It is a free, open-source planetary GIS tool that can be downloaded from!  It suns on MacOS, Windows, and Linux.

Measures for the Shapes of Impact Craters

How to Quantify the Shape of an Area In a previous post, I mentioned that Fred Calef and colleagues (2009) identified several quantitative measures helpful in distinguishing secondary impact craters from primaries on the surface of Mars. Two of the useful measures that should also be useful for evaluating craters on Ceres are the Form Ratio and the Circularity Ratio. Described by Keith Selkirk (1982) as measures for quantitatively representing the shape of geographic areas on Earth, such as drainage basins, they are also useful for determining the "compactness" of geomorphological features elsewhere in the Solar System. Circularity Ratio Circularity is a ratio of a region's area to its perimeter.  Selkirk observes that a longer perimeter relative to a shape's area results in a more convoluted shape. A shorter perimeter relative to the area is more compact, with the ideal compactness occurring with a circle. Here is the basic formula:       circularity_rati

More About Secondary Craters

Figure 1: Copernicus Crater (LROC Image/ASU/NASA) Large impact craters are surrounded by secondary craters, appearing alone, in clusters, in lines, or even in loops. These craters extend to many crater radii from the primary (see Figure 1).  I'm concerned about secondary craters since multiple ejecta projectiles from a large impact could easily strike the surface in proximity to each other simultaneously... looking very much like a doublet crater. Jay Melosh (1989) points out that as the range from the primary crater increases, secondary craters are more dispersed and their shapes are more circular.  The improved circularity of distal secondaries results from the projectile's higher velocity, and the highest velocity ejecta is typically going to travel the furthest. The lower density of secondary craters combined with them being more circular, means they look a lot like primary impact craters! Figure 2:  Secondary craters High-energy ejecta have a decent chance of

Discerning Secondary Impacts from Primary Ones

Figure 1: He wrote the book A Fortunate Encounter During the poster session at #LPSC2017, I was surprised and delighted that Jay Melosh stopped to discuss my poster on doublet craters .  Not only had I cited some of his papers in my work, but he also "wrote the book" on Impact Cratering (no, really !). Dr. Melosh was genuinely interested, and also pleased to see that my co-author (and graduate advisor) was Ron Fevig , a former student of his at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at U of A. After examining the images of potential doublets from my survey area, Figure 2: Doublet crater on Ceres he noted that the ones I had identified as "highly eroded" (see figure 2) may not be that eroded, but were possibly secondary craters, since their rims were irregular rather than cleanly circular.  He also referred me to his book for a good description. Refining Crater Identification Criteria Moving into the next phase of my research, I need to be capable of

Doublet craters and how they form

A doublet crater is a pair of impact craters in proximity to one another that are created by the same primary impact event. Doublet craters have been observed on Earth, on the Moon, on Mercury, on Venus, and on Mars. Doublet crater on Ceres. Dawn image FC0054639 ( NASA ) Doublet crater formation. Early research attributed doublet crater formation to a single impactor broken up by either atmospheric disruption or tidal forces, but further analysis revealed that these processes could not result in sufficient separation of the components to create observed doublets. It is now believed that well-separated binary asteroids are the true source of doublet craters. The percentage of impact craters in the inner solar system that are doublets would require ~15% of planet-crossing asteroids to be binaries. This makes doublets an excellent source of evidence for the prevalence of binary asteroidal systems, and can constrain the possible nature and formation processes for such binaries.