University of Illinois at Chicago
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Testing Models for the Formation of the Equatorial Ridge on Saturn's Moon Iapetus via Crater Counting

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posted on 2018-06-19, 00:00 authored by Amanda L. Damptz, Andrew J. Dombard, Michelle R. Kirchoff
Iapetus's equatorial ridge, visible in global views of the moon, is unique in the Solar System. The formation of this feature is likely attributed to a key event in the evolution of Iapetus, and various models have been proposed as the source of the ridge. By surveying imagery from the Cassini and Voyager missions, this study aims to compile a database of the impact crater population on and around Iapetus's equatorial ridge, assess the relative age of the ridge from differences in cratering between on ridge and off ridge, and test the various models of ridge formation. This work presents a database that contains 7748 craters ranging from 0.83 km to 591 km in diameter. The database includes the study area in which the crater is located, the latitude and longitude of the crater, the major and minor axis lengths, and the azimuthal angle of orientation of the major axis. Analysis of crater orientation over the entire study area reveals that there is no preference for long-axis orientation, particularly in the area with the highest resolution. Comparison of the crater size-frequency distributions show that the crater distribution on the ridge appears to be depleted in craters larger than 16 km with an abruptly enhanced crater population less than 16 km in diameter up to saturation. One possible interpretation is that the ridge is a relatively younger surface with an enhanced small impactor population. Finally, the compiled results are used to examine each ridge formation hypothesis. Based on these results, a model of ridge formation via a tidally disrupted sub-satellite appears most consistent with our interpretation of a younger ridge with an enhanced small impactor population.


Support for this research was provided by the Illinois Space Grant Consortium.



Damptz, A. L., Dombard, A. J. and Kirchoff, M. R. Testing models for the formation of the equatorial ridge on Iapetus via crater counting. Icarus. 2018. 302: 134-144. 10.1016/j.icarus.2017.10.049




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