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The Moon's Craters: What Do They Tell Us?

Dr. Gwen Barnes
Department of Physics
University of Idaho

What happens when a meteor hits a planet? Meteors typically travel at 10s of kilometers per second and therefore have a huge amount of kinetic energy. When a meteor hits the Moon, all of its energy gets deposited at once, forming a crater that is about 10 times larger than the meteorite. The Moon is covered in impact craters. Each crater, individually, can tell a story, both about the surface it impacted into and about the incoming meteor. Also, all the craters together can tell stories about the history of the surface and the history of solar system bombardment. In this talk I will describe how impact cratering works and what we can learn from impact craters about the Moon, Mars, and other planets.

Gwen Barnes received a BS in Chemistry from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Ph.D. in Planetary Science from the University of Arizona, in Tucson. She was a post doc at NASA Ames Research Center where she worked with the LCROSS (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) team to select the impact site that would be most likely to enable the discovery of water on the Moon. (LCROSS found water!) Now she is a Research Professor at the University of Idaho where she continues to learn about the surfaces of the Moon and Mars from the analysis of the small impact craters observed there.