The Meteoritical Society awarded Tucson Planetary Science Institute researcher William K. Hartmann its 2010 Barringer Medal Thursday in New York.

The award recognizes Hartmann’s outstanding work in the field of cratering of planets by asteroid impacts, according to the citation from the international society for meteoritics and planetary science.

“The award primarily recognizes our work in developing a system for estimating ages of planetary surface features, especially on Mars,” Hartmann said. “The idea is that if you create any surface in the solar system — lava flows, lakebed deposit or even a parking lot — asteroid impacts craters will create craters over millions of years, so the older the surface, the more craters.

“By careful counting of impact craters, and attention to their state of preservation, we’ve been able to show that while many surfaces on Mars are very old — say 3.5 billion years to 4.5 billion years, or almost as old as the planet itself — other surfaces such as some lava flows and water-erosion features can’t be much more than 100 million years, which is the last 2 percent of geologic time. Which suggests that Mars has had volcanic activity and even occasional water release in ‘modern’ geologic time. That is very exciting, to realize that Mars is a geologically active planet, just from counts of asteroid impacts on various surfaces.”

The award-winning research was carried out of the last 39 years at Tucson’s Planetary Science Institute. Hartmann is one of the founders of the Institute.

Clark R. Chapman of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. introduced Hartmann at the event. “Bill Hartmann is one of the few scientists during the past half-century who have studied cratering from the broadest, most open-minded perspective, trying to elucidate the fundamental role it has played in shaping the surfaces of the planets and the properties of the smaller bodies in the solar system,” Chapman said. “Bill Hartmann’s vision of lunar and planetary cratering, and his career of research and public outreach on that topic, make him eminently qualified to receive the prestigious Barringer Medal.”

The Barringer Medal and Award were established in 1982 to honor the memory of D. Moreau Barringer Sr. and his son D. Moreau Barringer Jr. and are sponsored by the Barringer Crater Company. The senior Barringer was the first to seriously propose an impact origin for the crater that now bears his name. For nearly two decades he defended this theory against the vast majority of scientific opinion. The junior Barringer was the first to identify the Odessa crater, the second known impact site on Earth.

“The Barringer family from the Flagstaff family originally bought Meteor Crater near Winslow and developed it into a significant Arizona attraction with a wonderful museum,” Hartmann said. “The family has always been terrific about supporting science and research into meteorites and cratering.”

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The Planetary Science Institute is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation dedicated to solar system exploration. It is headquartered in Tucson, Arizona, where it was founded in 1972. PSI scientists are involved in numerous NASA and international missions, the study of Mars and other planets, the Moon, asteroids, comets, interplanetary dust, impact physics, the origin of the solar system, extra-solar planet formation, dynamics, the rise of life, and other areas of research. They conduct fieldwork in North America, Australia and Africa. They also are actively involved in science education and public outreach through school programs, children’s books, popular science books and art. PSI scientists are based in 15 states, the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Russia and Australia.