Revised recommended methods for analyzing crater size-frequency distributions

Meteoritics and Planetary Science
By: , and 



Impact crater populations crucially help us to understand solar system dynamics, planetary surface histories, and surface modification processes. A single previous effort to standardize how crater data are displayed in graphs, tables, and archives, was in a 1978 NASA report by the Crater Analysis Techniques Working Group, published in 1979 in Icarus. The report had a significant lasting effect, but later decades brought major advances in statistical and computer sciences while the crater field has remained fairly stagnant. In this new work, we revisit the fundamental techniques for displaying and analyzing crater population data and demonstrate better statistical methods that can be used. Specifically, we address (1) how crater size-frequency distributions (SFDs) are constructed, (2) how error bars are assigned to SFDs, and (3) how SFDs are fit to power laws and other models. We show how the new methods yield results similar to those of previous techniques in that the SFDs have familiar shapes but better account for multiple sources of uncertainty. We also recommend graphic, display, and archiving methods that reflect computers' capabilities and fulfill NASA's current requirements for Data Management Plans.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Revised recommended methods for analyzing crater size-frequency distributions
Series title Meteoritics and Planetary Science
DOI 10.1111/maps.12990
Volume 53
Issue 4
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher The Meteoritical Society
Contributing office(s) Astrogeology Science Center
Description 41 p.
First page 891
Last page 931
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