Impact crater

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Iapetus as seen by the Cassini probe - 20071008.jpg Fresh impact crater HiRise 2013.jpg
Tycho crater on the Moon.jpg
Barringer Crater aerial photo by USGS.jpg
Impact craters in the Solar System:

An impact crater is an approximately circular depression in the surface of a planet, moon, or other solid body in the Solar System or elsewhere, formed by the hypervelocity impact of a smaller body. In contrast to volcanic craters, which result from explosion or internal collapse, [2] impact craters typically have raised rims and floors that are lower in elevation than the surrounding terrain. [3] Impact craters range from small, simple, bowl-shaped depressions to large, complex, multi-ringed impact basins. Meteor Crater is a well-known example of a small impact crater on Earth.

Depression (geology) Landform sunken or depressed below the surrounding area

In geology, a depression is a landform sunken or depressed below the surrounding area. Depressions form by various mechanisms.

Planet Class of astronomical body directly orbiting a star or stellar remnant

A planet is an astronomical body orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, and has cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals.

Natural satellite astronomical body that orbits a planet

A natural satellite or moon is, in the most common usage, an astronomical body that orbits a planet or minor planet.

Contents

Impact craters are the dominant geographic features on many solid Solar System objects including the Moon, Mercury, Callisto, Ganymede and most small moons and asteroids. On other planets and moons that experience more active surface geological processes, such as Earth, Venus, Mars, Europa, Io and Titan, visible impact craters are less common because they become eroded, buried or transformed by tectonics over time. Where such processes have destroyed most of the original crater topography, the terms impact structure or astrobleme are more commonly used. In early literature, before the significance of impact cratering was widely recognised, the terms cryptoexplosion or cryptovolcanic structure were often used to describe what are now recognised as impact-related features on Earth. [4]

Moon Earths natural satellite

Earth's Moon is an astronomical body that orbits the planet and acts as its only permanent natural satellite. It is the fifth-largest satellite in the Solar System, and the largest among planetary satellites relative to the size of the planet that it orbits. The Moon is, after Jupiter's satellite Io, the second-densest satellite in the Solar System among those whose densities are known.

Mercury (planet) Smallest and closest planet to the Sun in the Solar System

Mercury is the smallest and innermost planet in the Solar System. Its orbit around the Sun takes only 87.97 days, the shortest of all the planets in the Solar System. It is named after the Roman deity Mercury, the messenger of the gods.

Callisto (moon) Second largest Galilean moon of Jupiter and third largest in the solar system

Callisto is the second-largest moon of Jupiter, after Ganymede. It is the third-largest moon in the Solar System after Ganymede and Saturn's largest moon Titan, and the largest object in the Solar System not to be properly differentiated. Callisto was discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei. At 4821 km in diameter, Callisto has about 99% the diameter of the planet Mercury but only about a third of its mass. It is the fourth Galilean moon of Jupiter by distance, with an orbital radius of about 1883000 km. It is not in an orbital resonance like the three other Galilean satellites—Io, Europa, and Ganymede—and is thus not appreciably tidally heated. Callisto's rotation is tidally locked to its orbit around Jupiter, so that the same hemisphere always faces inward; Jupiter appears to stand nearly still in Callisto's sky. It is less affected by Jupiter's magnetosphere than the other inner satellites because of its more remote orbit, located just outside Jupiter's main radiation belt.

The cratering records of very old surfaces, such as Mercury, the Moon, and the southern highlands of Mars, record a period of intense early bombardment in the inner Solar System around 3.9 billion years ago. The rate of crater production on Earth has since been considerably lower, but it is appreciable nonetheless; Earth experiences from one to three impacts large enough to produce a 20-kilometre-diameter (12 mi) crater about once every million years on average. [5] [6] This indicates that there should be far more relatively young craters on the planet than have been discovered so far. The cratering rate in the inner solar system fluctuates as a consequence of collisions in the asteroid belt that create a family of fragments that are often sent cascading into the inner solar system. [7] Formed in a collision 80 million years ago, the Baptistina family of asteroids is thought to have caused a large spike in the impact rate. Note that the rate of impact cratering in the outer Solar System could be different from the inner Solar System. [8]

Late Heavy Bombardment Interval when a disproportionately large number of asteroids are theorised to have collided with the inner planets

The Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB), or lunar cataclysm, is a hypothesized event thought to have occurred approximately 4.1 to 3.8 billion years (Ga) ago, at a time corresponding to the Neohadean and Eoarchean eras on Earth. During this interval, a disproportionately large number of asteroids are theorized to have collided with the early terrestrial planets in the inner Solar System, including Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. Since 2018, the existence of the Late Heavy Bombardment has been questioned.

Baptistina family asteroid family

The Baptistina family is an asteroid family of more than 2500 members that was probably produced by the breakup of an asteroid 170 km (110 mi) across 80 million years ago following an impact with a smaller body. The two largest presumed remnants of the parent asteroid are main-belt asteroids 298 Baptistina and 1696 Nurmela. The Baptistina family is part of the larger Flora clan. It was initially speculated that the Chicxulub impactor was part of the Baptistina family of asteroids, but this was disproven in 2011 using data from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE).

Although Earth's active surface processes quickly destroy the impact record, about 190 terrestrial impact craters have been identified. [9] These range in diameter from a few tens of meters up to about 300 km (190 mi), and they range in age from recent times (e.g. the Sikhote-Alin craters in Russia whose creation was witnessed in 1947) to more than two billion years, though most are less than 500 million years old because geological processes tend to obliterate older craters. They are also selectively found in the stable interior regions of continents. [10] Few undersea craters have been discovered because of the difficulty of surveying the sea floor, the rapid rate of change of the ocean bottom, and the subduction of the ocean floor into Earth's interior by processes of plate tectonics.

Sikhote-Alin meteorite iron meteorite that fell in 1947 on the Sikhote-Alin Mountains in eastern Siberia

An iron meteorite fell on the Sikhote-Alin Mountains, in southeastern Russia, in 1947. Though large iron meteorite falls had been witnessed previously and fragments recovered, never before in recorded history had a fall of this magnitude been observed. An estimated 23 tonnes of fragments survived the fiery passage through the atmosphere and reached the Earth, but still less than the largest meteorite find, the Hoba meteorite of 60 tonnes.

Craton Old and stable part of the continental lithosphere

A craton is an old and stable part of the continental lithosphere, which consists of the Earth's two topmost layers, the crust and the uppermost mantle. Having often survived cycles of merging and rifting of continents, cratons are generally found in the interiors of tectonic plates. They are characteristically composed of ancient crystalline basement rock, which may be covered by younger sedimentary rock. They have a thick crust and deep lithospheric roots that extend as much as several hundred kilometres into the Earth's mantle.

Subduction A geological process at convergent tectonic plate boundaries where one plate moves under the other

Subduction is a geological process that takes place at convergent boundaries of tectonic plates where one plate moves under another and is forced to sink due to gravity into the mantle. Regions where this process occurs are known as subduction zones. Rates of subduction are typically in centimeters per year, with the average rate of convergence being approximately two to eight centimeters per year along most plate boundaries.

Impact craters are not to be confused with landforms that may appear similar, including calderas, sinkholes, glacial cirques, ring dikes, salt domes, and others.

Ring dike

A ring dike or ring dyke is an intrusive igneous body that is circular, oval or arcuate in plan and has steep contacts. While the widths of ring dikes differ, they can be up to several thousand meters. The most commonly accepted method of ring dike formation is directly related to collapse calderas.

History

Daniel M. Barringer, a mining engineer, was convinced that the crater he owned, Meteor Crater, was of cosmic origin. Yet, most geologists at the time assumed it formed as the result of a volcanic steam eruption. [11] :41–42

Meteor Crater meteorite impact crater in northern Arizona

Meteor Crater is a meteorite impact crater approximately 37 miles (60 km) east of Flagstaff and 18 miles (29 km) west of Winslow in the northern Arizona desert of the United States. Because the United States Board on Geographic Names commonly recognizes names of natural features derived from the nearest post office, the feature acquired the name of "Meteor Crater" from the nearby post office named Meteor. The site was formerly known as the Canyon Diablo Crater and fragments of the meteorite are officially called the Canyon Diablo Meteorite. Scientists refer to the crater as Barringer Crater in honor of Daniel Barringer, who was first to suggest that it was produced by meteorite impact. The crater is privately owned by the Barringer family through their Barringer Crater Company, which proclaims it to be the "best preserved meteorite crater on Earth". Despite its importance as a geological site, the crater is not protected as a national monument, a status that would require federal ownership. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in November 1967.

Eugene Shoemaker, pioneer impact crater researcher, here at a crystallographic microscope used to examine meteorites Eugene Shoemaker.jpg
Eugene Shoemaker, pioneer impact crater researcher, here at a crystallographic microscope used to examine meteorites

In the 1920s, the American geologist Walter H. Bucher studied a number of sites now recognized as impact craters in the United States. He concluded they had been created by some great explosive event, but believed that this force was probably volcanic in origin. However, in 1936, the geologists John D. Boon and Claude C. Albritton Jr. revisited Bucher's studies and concluded that the craters that he studied were probably formed by impacts. [12]

Grove Karl Gilbert suggested in 1893 that the Moon's craters were formed by large asteroid impacts. Ralph Baldwin in 1949 wrote that the Moon's craters were mostly of impact origin. Around 1960, Gene Shoemaker revived the idea. According to David H. Levy, Gene "saw the craters on the Moon as logical impact sites that were formed not gradually, in eons, but explosively, in seconds." For his Ph.D. degree at Princeton (1960), under the guidance of Harry Hammond Hess, Shoemaker studied the impact dynamics of Barringer Meteor Crater. Shoemaker noted Meteor Crater had the same form and structure as two explosion craters created from atomic bomb tests at the Nevada Test Site, notably Jangle U in 1951 and Teapot Ess in 1955. In 1960, Edward C. T. Chao and Shoemaker identified (coesite) at Meteor Crater, proving the crater was formed from an impact generating extremely high temperatures and pressures. They followed this discovery with the identification of coesite within suevite at Nördlinger Ries, proving its impact origin. [11]

Armed with the knowledge of shock-metamorphic features, Carlyle S. Beals and colleagues at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada and Wolf von Engelhardt of the University of Tübingen in Germany began a methodical search for impact craters. By 1970, they had tentatively identified more than 50. Although their work was controversial, the American Apollo Moon landings, which were in progress at the time, provided supportive evidence by recognizing the rate of impact cratering on the Moon. [13] Because the processes of erosion on the Moon are minimal, craters persist. Since the Earth could be expected to have roughly the same cratering rate as the Moon, it became clear that the Earth had suffered far more impacts than could be seen by counting evident craters.

Crater formation

A laboratory simulation of an impact event and crater formation

Impact cratering involves high velocity collisions between solid objects, typically much greater than the speed of sound in those objects. Such hyper-velocity impacts produce physical effects such as melting and vaporization that do not occur in familiar sub-sonic collisions. On Earth, ignoring the slowing effects of travel through the atmosphere, the lowest impact velocity with an object from space is equal to the gravitational escape velocity of about 11 km/s. The fastest impacts occur at about 72 km/s [14] in the "worst case" scenario in which an object in a retrograde near-parabolic orbit hits Earth. The median impact velocity on Earth is about 20 km/s. [15]

However, the slowing effects of travel through the atmosphere rapidly decelerate any potential impactor, especially in the lowest 12 kilometres where 90% of the earth's atmospheric mass lies. Meteorites of up to 7,000 kg lose all their cosmic velocity due to atmospheric drag at a certain altitude (retardation point), and start to accelerate again due to Earth's gravity until the body reaches its terminal velocity of 0.09 to 0.16 km/s. [14] The larger the meteoroid (i.e. asteroids and comets) the more of its initial cosmic velocity it preserves. While an object of 9,000 kg maintains about 6% of its original velocity, one of 900,000 kg already preserves about 70%. Extremely large bodies (about 100,000 tonnes) are not slowed by the atmosphere at all, and impact with their initial cosmic velocity if no prior disintegration occurs. [14]

Impacts at these high speeds produce shock waves in solid materials, and both impactor and the material impacted are rapidly compressed to high density. Following initial compression, the high-density, over-compressed region rapidly depressurizes, exploding violently, to set in train the sequence of events that produces the impact crater. Impact-crater formation is therefore more closely analogous to cratering by high explosives than by mechanical displacement. Indeed, the energy density of some material involved in the formation of impact craters is many times higher than that generated by high explosives. Since craters are caused by explosions, they are nearly always circular – only very low-angle impacts cause significantly elliptical craters. [16]

This describes impacts on solid surfaces. Impacts on porous surfaces, such as that of Hyperion, may produce internal compression without ejecta, punching a hole in the surface without filling in nearby craters. This may explain the 'sponge-like' appearance of that moon. [17]

It is convenient to divide the impact process conceptually into three distinct stages: (1) initial contact and compression, (2) excavation, (3) modification and collapse. In practice, there is overlap between the three processes with, for example, the excavation of the crater continuing in some regions while modification and collapse is already underway in others.

Contact and compression

Nested Craters on Mars, 40.104deg N, 125.005deg E. These nested craters are probably caused by changes in the strength of the target material. This usually happens when a weaker material overlies a stronger material. Nested Craters on Mars.jpg
Nested Craters on Mars, 40.104° N, 125.005° E. These nested craters are probably caused by changes in the strength of the target material. This usually happens when a weaker material overlies a stronger material.

In the absence of atmosphere, the impact process begins when the impactor first touches the target surface. This contact accelerates the target and decelerates the impactor. Because the impactor is moving so rapidly, the rear of the object moves a significant distance during the short-but-finite time taken for the deceleration to propagate across the impactor. As a result, the impactor is compressed, its density rises, and the pressure within it increases dramatically. Peak pressures in large impacts exceed 1 T Pa to reach values more usually found deep in the interiors of planets, or generated artificially in nuclear explosions.

In physical terms, a shock wave originates from the point of contact. As this shock wave expands, it decelerates and compresses the impactor, and it accelerates and compresses the target. Stress levels within the shock wave far exceed the strength of solid materials; consequently, both the impactor and the target close to the impact site are irreversibly damaged. Many crystalline minerals can be transformed into higher-density phases by shock waves; for example, the common mineral quartz can be transformed into the higher-pressure forms coesite and stishovite. Many other shock-related changes take place within both impactor and target as the shock wave passes through, and some of these changes can be used as diagnostic tools to determine whether particular geological features were produced by impact cratering. [16]

As the shock wave decays, the shocked region decompresses towards more usual pressures and densities. The damage produced by the shock wave raises the temperature of the material. In all but the smallest impacts this increase in temperature is sufficient to melt the impactor, and in larger impacts to vaporize most of it and to melt large volumes of the target. As well as being heated, the target near the impact is accelerated by the shock wave, and it continues moving away from the impact behind the decaying shock wave. [16]

Excavation

Contact, compression, decompression, and the passage of the shock wave all occur within a few tenths of a second for a large impact. The subsequent excavation of the crater occurs more slowly, and during this stage the flow of material is largely subsonic. During excavation, the crater grows as the accelerated target material moves away from the point of impact. The target's motion is initially downwards and outwards, but it becomes outwards and upwards. The flow initially produces an approximately hemispherical cavity that continues to grow, eventually producing a paraboloid (bowl-shaped) crater in which the centre has been pushed down, a significant volume of material has been ejected, and a topographically elevated crater rim has been pushed up. When this cavity has reached its maximum size, it is called the transient cavity. [16]

Herschel Crater on Saturn's moon Mimas Mimas moon.jpg
Herschel Crater on Saturn's moon Mimas

The depth of the transient cavity is typically a quarter to a third of its diameter. Ejecta thrown out of the crater do not include material excavated from the full depth of the transient cavity; typically the depth of maximum excavation is only about a third of the total depth. As a result, about one third of the volume of the transient crater is formed by the ejection of material, and the remaining two thirds is formed by the displacement of material downwards, outwards and upwards, to form the elevated rim. For impacts into highly porous materials, a significant crater volume may also be formed by the permanent compaction of the pore space. Such compaction craters may be important on many asteroids, comets and small moons.

In large impacts, as well as material displaced and ejected to form the crater, significant volumes of target material may be melted and vaporized together with the original impactor. Some of this impact melt rock may be ejected, but most of it remains within the transient crater, initially forming a layer of impact melt coating the interior of the transient cavity. In contrast, the hot dense vaporized material expands rapidly out of the growing cavity, carrying some solid and molten material within it as it does so. As this hot vapor cloud expands, it rises and cools much like the archetypal mushroom cloud generated by large nuclear explosions. In large impacts, the expanding vapor cloud may rise to many times the scale height of the atmosphere, effectively expanding into free space.

Most material ejected from the crater is deposited within a few crater radii, but a small fraction may travel large distances at high velocity, and in large impacts it may exceed escape velocity and leave the impacted planet or moon entirely. The majority of the fastest material is ejected from close to the center of impact, and the slowest material is ejected close to the rim at low velocities to form an overturned coherent flap of ejecta immediately outside the rim. As ejecta escapes from the growing crater, it forms an expanding curtain in the shape of an inverted cone. The trajectory of individual particles within the curtain is thought to be largely ballistic.

Small volumes of un-melted and relatively un-shocked material may be spalled at very high relative velocities from the surface of the target and from the rear of the impactor. Spalling provides a potential mechanism whereby material may be ejected into inter-planetary space largely undamaged, and whereby small volumes of the impactor may be preserved undamaged even in large impacts. Small volumes of high-speed material may also be generated early in the impact by jetting. This occurs when two surfaces converge rapidly and obliquely at a small angle, and high-temperature highly shocked material is expelled from the convergence zone with velocities that may be several times larger than the impact velocity.

Modification and collapse

Weathering may change the aspect of a crater drastically. This mound on Mars' north pole may be the result of an impact crater that was buried by sediment and subsequently re-exposed by erosion. Conical mound in trough on Mars' north pole.jpg
Weathering may change the aspect of a crater drastically. This mound on Mars' north pole may be the result of an impact crater that was buried by sediment and subsequently re-exposed by erosion.

In most circumstances, the transient cavity is not stable and collapses under gravity. In small craters, less than about 4 km diameter on Earth, there is some limited collapse of the crater rim coupled with debris sliding down the crater walls and drainage of impact melts into the deeper cavity. The resultant structure is called a simple crater, and it remains bowl-shaped and superficially similar to the transient crater. In simple craters, the original excavation cavity is overlain by a lens of collapse breccia, ejecta and melt rock, and a portion of the central crater floor may sometimes be flat.

Multi-ringed impact basin Valhalla on Jupiter's moon Callisto Valhalla crater on Callisto.jpg
Multi-ringed impact basin Valhalla on Jupiter's moon Callisto

Above a certain threshold size, which varies with planetary gravity, the collapse and modification of the transient cavity is much more extensive, and the resulting structure is called a complex crater. The collapse of the transient cavity is driven by gravity, and involves both the uplift of the central region and the inward collapse of the rim. The central uplift is not the result of elastic rebound, which is a process in which a material with elastic strength attempts to return to its original geometry; rather the collapse is a process in which a material with little or no strength attempts to return to a state of gravitational equilibrium.

Complex craters have uplifted centers, and they have typically broad flat shallow crater floors, and terraced walls. At the largest sizes, one or more exterior or interior rings may appear, and the structure may be labeled an impact basin rather than an impact crater. Complex-crater morphology on rocky planets appears to follow a regular sequence with increasing size: small complex craters with a central topographic peak are called central peak craters , for example Tycho; intermediate-sized craters, in which the central peak is replaced by a ring of peaks, are called peak-ring craters, for example Schrödinger; and the largest craters contain multiple concentric topographic rings, and are called multi-ringed basins, for example Orientale. On icy (as opposed to rocky) bodies, other morphological forms appear that may have central pits rather than central peaks, and at the largest sizes may contain many concentric rings. Valhalla on Callisto is an example of this type.

Identifying impact craters

Impact structure of craters: simple and complex craters Craterstructure.gif
Impact structure of craters: simple and complex craters
Wells Creek crater in Tennessee, United States: a close-up of shatter cones developed in fine grained dolomite Wells creek shatter cones 2.JPG
Wells Creek crater in Tennessee, United States: a close-up of shatter cones developed in fine grained dolomite
Decorah crater: aerial electromagnetic resistivity map (USGS) USGS Decorah crater.jpg
Decorah crater: aerial electromagnetic resistivity map (USGS)
Meteor Crater in the U.S. state of Arizona, was the world's first confirmed impact crater. Barringer Crater USGS.jpg
Meteor Crater in the U.S. state of Arizona, was the world's first confirmed impact crater.
Shoemaker Crater in Western Australia was renamed in memory of Gene Shoemaker. Shoemaker Impact Structure, Western Australia.JPG
Shoemaker Crater in Western Australia was renamed in memory of Gene Shoemaker.

Non-explosive volcanic craters can usually be distinguished from impact craters by their irregular shape and the association of volcanic flows and other volcanic materials. Impact craters produce melted rocks as well, but usually in smaller volumes with different characteristics.

The distinctive mark of an impact crater is the presence of rock that has undergone shock-metamorphic effects, such as shatter cones, melted rocks, and crystal deformations. The problem is that these materials tend to be deeply buried, at least for simple craters. They tend to be revealed in the uplifted center of a complex crater, however.

Impacts produce distinctive shock-metamorphic effects that allow impact sites to be distinctively identified. Such shock-metamorphic effects can include:

Economic importance of impacts

On Earth impact craters have resulted in useful minerals. Some of the ores produced from impact related effects on Earth include ores of iron, uranium, gold, copper, and nickel. It is estimated that the value of materials mined from impact structures is five billion dollars/year just for North America. [24] The eventual usefulness of impact craters depends on several factors especially the nature of the materials that were impacted and when the materials were affected. In some cases the deposits were already in place and the impact brought them to the surface. These are called “progenetic economic deposits.” Others were created during the actual impact. The great energy involved caused melting. Useful minerals formed as a result of this energy are classified as “syngenetic deposits.” The third type, called “epigenetic deposits,” is caused by the creation of a basin from the impact. Many of the minerals that our modern lives depend on are associated with impacts in the past. The Vredeford Dome in the center of the Witwatersrand Basin is the largest goldfield in the world which has supplied about 40% of all the gold ever mined in an impact structure. [25] [26] [27] [28] The asteroid that struck the region was 9.7 km (6 mi) wide. The Sudbury Basin was caused by an impacting body over 9.7 km (6 mi) in diameter. [29] [30] This basin is famous for its deposits of nickel, copper, and Platinum Group Elements. An impact was involved in making the Carswell structure in Saskatchewan, Canada; it contains uranium deposits. [31] [32] [33] Hydrocarbons are common around impact structures. Fifty percent of impact structures in North America in hydrocarbon-bearing sedimentary basins contain oil/gas fields. [34] [24]

Martian craters

Because of the many missions studying Mars since the 1960s, there is good coverage of its surface which contains large numbers of craters. Many of the craters on Mars differ from those on the Moon and other moons since Mars contains ice under the ground, especially in the higher latitudes. Some of the types of craters that have special shapes due to impact into ice-rich ground are pedestal craters, rampart craters, expanded craters, and LARLE craters.

Lists of craters

Impact craters on Earth

World map in equirectangular projection of the craters on the Earth Impact Database as of November 2017 (in the SVG file, hover over a crater to show its details) Earth Impact Database world map.svg
World map in equirectangular projection of the craters on the Earth Impact Database as of November 2017 (in the SVG file, hover over a crater to show its details)

On Earth, the recognition of impact craters is a branch of geology, and is related to planetary geology in the study of other worlds. Out of many proposed craters, relatively few are confirmed. The following twenty are a sample of articles of confirmed and well-documented impact sites.

See the Earth Impact Database, [35] a website concerned with 190 (as of July 2019) scientifically-confirmed impact craters on Earth.

Some extraterrestrial craters

Unnamed crater in Caloris Basin, photographed by MESSENGER, 2011 Unnamed crater in Caloris Basin.jpg
Unnamed crater in Caloris Basin, photographed by MESSENGER, 2011

Largest named craters in the Solar System

Tirawa crater straddling the terminator on Rhea, lower right. PIA09819 Tirawa basin.jpg
Tirawa crater straddling the terminator on Rhea, lower right.
  1. North Polar Basin/Borealis Basin (disputed) – Mars – Diameter: 10,600 km
  2. South Pole-Aitken basin – Moon – Diameter: 2,500 km
  3. Hellas Basin – Mars – Diameter: 2,100 km
  4. Caloris Basin – Mercury – Diameter: 1,550 km
  5. Imbrium Basin – Moon – Diameter: 1,100 km
  6. Isidis Planitia – Mars – Diameter: 1,100 km
  7. Mare Tranquilitatis – Moon – Diameter: 870 km
  8. Argyre Planitia – Mars – Diameter: 800 km
  9. Rembrandt – Mercury – Diameter: 715 km
  10. Serenitatis Basin – Moon – Diameter: 700 km
  11. Mare Nubium – Moon – Diameter: 700 km
  12. Beethoven – Mercury – Diameter: 625 km
  13. Valhalla – Callisto – Diameter: 600 km, with rings to 4,000 km diameter
  14. Hertzsprung – Moon – Diameter: 590 km
  15. Turgis – Iapetus – Diameter: 580 km
  16. Apollo – Moon – Diameter: 540 km
  17. Engelier – Iapetus – Diameter: 504 km
  18. Mamaldi – Rhea – Diameter: 480 km
  19. Huygens – Mars – Diameter: 470 km
  20. Schiaparelli – Mars – Diameter: 470 km
  21. Rheasilvia – 4 Vesta – Diameter: 460 km
  22. Gerin – Iapetus – Diameter: 445 km
  23. Odysseus – Tethys – Diameter: 445 km
  24. Korolev – Moon – Diameter: 430 km
  25. Falsaron – Iapetus – Diameter: 424 km
  26. Dostoevskij – Mercury – Diameter: 400 km
  27. Menrva – Titan – Diameter: 392 km
  28. Tolstoj – Mercury – Diameter: 390 km
  29. Goethe – Mercury – Diameter: 380 km
  30. Malprimis – Iapetus – Diameter: 377 km
  31. Tirawa – Rhea – Diameter: 360 km
  32. Orientale Basin – Moon – Diameter: 350 km, with rings to 930 km diameter
  33. Evander – Dione – Diameter: 350 km
  34. Epigeus – Ganymede – Diameter: 343 km
  35. Gertrude – Titania – Diameter: 326 km
  36. Telemus – Tethys – Diameter: 320 km
  37. Asgard – Callisto – Diameter: 300 km, with rings to 1,400 km diameter
  38. Vredefort crater – Earth – Diameter: 300 km
  39. Kerwan – Ceres – Diameter: 284 km
  40. Powehiwehi – Rhea – Diameter: 271 km

There are approximately twelve more impact craters/basins larger than 300 km on the Moon, five on Mercury, and four on Mars. [36] Large basins, some unnamed but mostly smaller than 300 km, can also be found on Saturn's moons Dione, Rhea and Iapetus.

See also

Related Research Articles

Sudbury Basin Third largest verified astrobleme on earth, remains of an Paleoproterozoic Era impact

The Sudbury Basin, also known as Sudbury Structure or the Sudbury Nickel Irruptive, is a major geological structure in Ontario, Canada. It is the third-largest known impact crater or astrobleme on Earth, as well as one of the oldest. The crater formed 1.849 billion years ago in the Paleoproterozoic era.

Vredefort crater The largest verified impact crater on earth, dating from the Paleoproterozoic Era

The Vredefort crater is the largest verified impact crater on Earth. More than 300 kilometres (190 mi) across when it was formed, what remains of it is in the present-day Free State province of South Africa. It is named after the town of Vredefort, which is near its centre. Although the crater itself has long since been worn away, the remaining geological structures at its centre are known as the Vredefort Dome or Vredefort impact structure. The crater is estimated to be 2.023 billion years old, with impact being in the Paleoproterozoic Era. It is the second-oldest known crater on Earth.

Ray system

A ray system comprises radial streaks of fine ejecta thrown out during the formation of an impact crater, looking somewhat like many thin spokes coming from the hub of a wheel. The rays may extend for lengths up to several times the diameter of their originating crater, and are often accompanied by small secondary craters formed by larger chunks of ejecta. Ray systems have been identified on the Moon, Earth, Mercury, and some moons of the outer planets. Originally it was thought that they existed only on planets or moons lacking an atmosphere, but more recently they have been identified on Mars in infrared images taken from orbit by 2001 Mars Odyssey's thermal imager.

Geology of Mercury Geologic structure and composition of planet Mercury

The geology of Mercury is the least understood of all the terrestrial planets in the Solar System. This stems largely from Mercury's proximity to the Sun which makes reaching it with spacecraft technically challenging and Earth-based observations difficult.

Geology of the Moon Structure and composition of the Moon

The geology of the Moon is quite different from that of Earth. The Moon lacks a significant atmosphere, which eliminates erosion due to weather; it does not have any form of plate tectonics, it has a lower gravity, and because of its small size, it cooled more rapidly. The complex geomorphology of the lunar surface has been formed by a combination of processes, especially impact cratering and volcanism. The Moon is a differentiated body, with a crust, mantle, and core.

Secondary crater impact crater formed by the ejecta that was thrown out of a larger crater

Secondary craters are impact craters formed by the ejecta that was thrown out of a larger crater. They sometimes form radial crater chains. In addition, secondary craters are often seen as clusters or rays surrounding primary craters. The study of secondary craters exploded around the mid-twentieth century when researchers studying surface craters to predict the age of planetary bodies realized that secondary craters contaminated the crater statistics of a body's crater count.

Geology of solar terrestrial planets Geology of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars and Ceres

The geology of solar terrestrial planets mainly deals with the geological aspects of the four terrestrial planets of the Solar System – Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars – and one terrestrial dwarf planet: Ceres. Earth is the only terrestrial planet known to have an active hydrosphere.

The Borealis quadrangle is a quadrangle on Mercury surrounding the north pole down to 65° latitude.

Tolstoj quadrangle

The Tolstoj quadrangle in the equatorial region of Mercury runs from 144 to 216° longitude and -25 to 25° latitude. It was provisionally called "Tir", but renamed after Leo Tolstoy by the International Astronomical Union in 1976. Also called Phaethontias.

Beethoven quadrangle

The Beethoven quadrangle is located in the equatorial region of Mercury, in the center of the area imaged by Mariner 10. Most pictures of the quadrangle were obtained at high sun angles as the Mariner 10 spacecraft receded from the planet. Geologic map units are described and classified on the basis of morphology, texture, and albedo, and they are assigned relative ages based on stratigraphic relations and on visual comparisons of the density of superposed craters. Crater ages are established by relative freshness of appearance, as indicated by topographic sharpness of their rim crests and degree of preservation of interior and exterior features such as crater floors, walls, and ejecta aprons. Generally, topography appears highly subdued because of the sun angle, and boundaries between map units are not clearly defined.

Michelangelo quadrangle

The Michelangelo quadrangle is in the southern hemisphere of the planet Mercury, where the imaged part is heavily cratered terrain that has been strongly influenced by the presence of multiring basins. At least four such basins, now nearly obliterated, have largely controlled the distribution of plains materials and structural trends in the map area. Many craters, interpreted to be of impact origin, display a spectrum of modification styles and degradation states. The interaction between basins, craters, and plains in this quadrangle provides important clues to geologic processes that have formed the morphology of the mercurian surface.

Azuara impact structure

The Azuara impact structure is a structural feature of about 30 kilometres (19 mi) diameter, located in northeastern Spain, roughly 50 kilometres (31 mi) south of Zaragoza. The name is attributed to the small town of Azuara located near the center of the structure. The first hint to a possible impact origin was given by Wolfgang Hammann as early as 1980, and the first field evidence was provided by Johannes Fiebag in the early eighties. In 1985, Ernstson et al. published the occurrence of shock metamorphism, and Azuara was established (Grieve & Shoemaker 1994, Hodge 1994, Norton 2002 as an authentic impact structure. From stratigraphic considerations and paleontological dating, its age is estimated to be Upper Eocene or Oligocene.

Complex crater large impact crater morphology with uplifted centres

Complex craters are a type of large impact crater morphology.

Mars may contain ores that would be very useful to potential colonists. The abundance of volcanic features together with widespread cratering are strong evidence for a variety of ores. While nothing may be found on Mars that would justify the high cost of transport to Earth, the more ores that future colonists can obtain from Mars, the easier it would be to build colonies there.

<i>Traces of Catastrophe</i>

Traces of Catastrophe: A Handbook of Shock-Metamorphic Effects in Terrestrial Meteorite Impact Structures is a book written by Bevan M. French of the Smithsonian Institution. It is a comprehensive technical reference on the science of impact craters. It was published in 1998 by the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), which is part of the Universities Space Research Association (USRA). It was originally available in hard copy from LPI, but is now only available as a portable document format (PDF) e-book free download.

Renoir (crater) crater on the planet Mercury

Renoir is a crater on the planet Mercury with a diameter of 219.88 km. Its center is located at 18.29 degrees south and 51.89 degrees west; its latitude ranges from 15.71 to 20.87 degrees south and its longitude ranges from 49.18 to 54.61 degrees west. Its name, after the French painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919), was adopted by the International Astronomical Union in 1976.

LARLE crater

A new class of Martian impact craters have been discovered by Northern Arizona University scientist Prof Nadine Barlow and Dr Joseph Boyce from the University of Hawaii in Oct 2013. They have termed it as ‘low-aspect-ratio layered ejecta (LARLE) craters’. Prof Nadine Barlow, a scientist Northern Arizona University described this class of craters with “thin-layered outer deposit” surpassing “the typical range of ejecta”. “The combination helps vaporize the materials and create a base flow surge. The low aspect ratio refers to how thin the deposits are relative to the area they cover,” Prof Barlow said. The scientists used data from continuing reconnaissance of Mars using the old Mars Odyssey Orbiter and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, discovered 139 LARLE craters ranging in diameter from 1.0 to 12.2 km, with 97 per cent of the LARLE craters are found poleward of 35N and 40S, while remaining mainly traced in the equatorial Medusae Fossae Formation.

Multi-ringed basin

A multi-ringed basin is not a simple bowl-shaped crater, or a peak ring crater, but one containing multiple concentric topographic rings; a multi-ringed basin could be described as a massive impact crater, surrounded by circular chains of mountains. As such, a multi-ring basin slightly resembles a bull's-eye, may have an area of many thousands of square kilometres.

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Bibliography

Further reading