Impact craters, also known as astroblemes, are bowl-shaped depressions formed when a meteoroid, asteroid, or comet collides with a planetary surface. These craters are scattered across the Earth’s surface, serving as stark reminders of our planet’s tumultuous past. Each crater holds a unique story, offering valuable insights into the history of the cosmos and the forces that have shaped our planet.
Embark on a journey around the globe as we explore 11 of the most fascinating impact craters on Earth:
1. Vredefort Dome, South Africa
Located in South Africa, the Vredefort Dome is the largest and oldest known impact crater on Earth. Formed about 2.02 billion years ago by an asteroid or comet estimated to be 6.2 to 9.3 miles (10 to 15 kilometers) in diameter, the Vredefort Dome spans an incredible 185 miles (300 kilometers) in width. The impact was so powerful that it deformed the Earth’s crust, creating a unique geological structure that is visible from space.
2. Sudbury Basin, Canada
The Sudbury Basin, situated in Ontario, Canada, is the second-largest impact crater on Earth, measuring approximately 155 miles (250 kilometers) in diameter. Formed about 1.85 billion years ago, the Sudbury Basin is renowned for its rich deposits of nickel, copper, and platinum, which were brought to Earth by the impactor.
3. Chicxulub Crater, Mexico
The Chicxulub Crater, located off the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, is a massive impact crater that is believed to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago. The impactor, estimated to be 6 miles (10 kilometers) in diameter, created a crater that measures around 180 miles (290 kilometers) in diameter.
4. Barringer Crater, United States
Barringer Crater, also known as Meteor Crater, is one of the best-preserved impact craters on Earth. Located in Arizona, USA, the crater measures 0.75 miles (1.2 kilometers) in diameter and 550 feet (168 meters) deep. It was formed about 50,000 years ago by an iron meteorite about 150 feet (46 meters) wide.
5. Pingualuit Crater, Canada
Pingualuit Crater, also known as the Chubb Crater, is located in Quebec, Canada. Measuring about 2.4 miles (3.8 kilometers) in diameter, it is one of the most spectacular impact craters on Earth due to its well-preserved uplifted rim and central lake. The crater was formed about 1.4 million years ago by an iron meteorite about 1,000 feet (300 meters) wide.
6. Wolfe Creek Crater, Australia
Wolfe Creek Crater is located in Western Australia. Measuring about 0.85 miles (1.4 kilometers) in diameter, it is one of the most well-preserved impact craters in Australia. The crater was formed about 300,000 years ago by an iron meteorite about 130 feet (40 meters) wide.
7. Ries Crater, Germany
Ries Crater is located in Bavaria, Germany. Measuring about 15 miles (24 kilometers) in diameter, it is one of the largest impact craters in Europe. The crater was formed about 14.6 million years ago by an asteroid or comet about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) in diameter.
8. Lonar Crater, India
Lonar Crater is located in Maharashtra, India. Measuring about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) in diameter, it is one of the most unique impact craters on Earth as it is filled with a saline lake. The crater was formed about 50,000 years ago by an iron meteorite about 150 feet (46 meters) wide.
9. Kaali Crater Field, Estonia
Kaali Crater Field is located on Saaremaa Island, Estonia. This unique site consists of nine impact craters formed about 5,600 years ago by a fragmented asteroid or comet.
10. Roter Kamm Crater, Namibia
Roter Kamm Crater in Namibia
Roter Kamm Crater is located in the Namib Desert, Namibia. Measuring about 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) in diameter, it is one of the youngest impact craters on Earth, formed about 3.7 million years ago by an iron meteorite about 160 feet (50 meters) wide.
11. Tswaing Crater, South Africa
Tswaing Crater in South Africa
Tswaing Crater is located near Pretoria, South Africa. Measuring about 1.1 miles (1.8 kilometers) in diameter, it is one of the most accessible impact craters on Earth, as it is located just outside a major city. The crater was formed about 220,000 years ago by an iron meteorite about 100 feet (30 meters) wide.
These 11 impact craters represent just a fraction of the countless impact sites that have scarred our planet throughout its history. Each crater serves as a testament to the immense power of celestial collisions and the profound impacts they have had on Earth’s geology, climate, and even the evolution of life. As we continue to explore our planet and beyond, we will undoubtedly uncover more of these fascinating remnants of our cosmic past, providing us with even deeper insights into the origins and evolution of our world.