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The isotopic method of determining absolute age is the most accurate and desirable way of dating planetary surfaces, but collecting and returning rock samples from distant planets and satellites is a difficult and expensive endeavor.Furthermore, some surfaces, such as those of the icy satellites of Jupiter and Saturn, may not yield rocks that are datable by current isotopic techniques.The technique depends on an erosion model that relates the shape of a crater to the integrated flux of meteoroids and secondary debris that have impacted the surface since the crater was fresh.
In practice, this procedure requires an accurate assessment of the initial abundances of the isotopes produced in the radioactive decay.
Fortunately, Earth provides one such check for the inner solar system.
Accurate determinations of recent cratering rates on Earth are vital to the estimation of accurate absolute ages from crater densities on the terrestrial planets.
Much work remains to be done, however, to refine the accuracy of these age estimates based on crater densities.
More extensive telescopic observations are needed to improve our knowledge of the physical properties and collision rates of the planet-crossing bodies, and computer models must be refined to estimate [Another method that has been used successfully on the Moon to estimate absolute ages involves the correlation of the morphology of small craters (1 km in diameter) with the absolute age of a surface determined from isotopic measurements (Shoemaker, 1966).
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To establish a surface history, it is necessary to determine the sequence of various geologic events and, if possible, their duration.