Impact cratering is likely a primary agent of regolith generation on airless bodies. Regolith production via impact cratering has long been a key topic of study since the Apollo era. The evolution of regolith due to impact cratering, however, is not well understood. A better formulation is needed to help quantify the formation mechanism and timescale of regolith evolution. Here we propose an analytically derived stochastic model that describes the evolution of regolith generated by small, simple craters. We account for ejecta blanketing as well as regolith infilling of the transient crater cavity. Our results show that the regolith infilling plays a key role in producing regolith. Our model demonstrates that because of the stochastic nature of impact cratering, the regolith thickness varies laterally, which is consistent with earlier work. We apply this analytical model to the regolith evolution at the Apollo 15 site. The regolith thickness is computed considering the observed crater size‐frequency distribution of small, simple lunar craters (< 381 m in radius for ejecta blanketing and <100 m in radius for the regolith infilling). Allowing for some amount of regolith coming from the outside of the area, our result is consistent with an empirical result from the Apollo 15 seismic experiment. Finally, we find that the timescale of regolith growth is longer than that of crater equilibrium, implying that even if crater equilibrium is observed on a cratered surface, it is likely that the regolith thickness is still evolving due to additional impact craters.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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