The Crater Page


Impact cratering is the result of a collision between a meteoroid and a larger, planetary object. The planet will most likely survive the impact, but a scar, or crater, will be formed on its surface. Meteoroids impact all of the planets in the solar system, even gaseous planets like Jupiter. Because of Jupiter’s less-than-solid surface, the craters are only visible for a short time. The surfaces of Mercury and earth’s moon are covered with impact craters. Mars has seen significant impact cratering, but because of strong winds, many have eroded. The earth has impact craters, but because of its atmosphere and geological activity, a meteoroid is either burned up before the collision or the resulting crater erodes over time.

Impact Craters

Impact craters may cause significant environmental changes to a planet, including changes in its biological and geographical evolution.

Craters on Earth

The earth has approximately 160 known impact craters. Because of the earth’s atmosphere and geological activity, few of them are visible. Craters can be anywhere from a few meters to approximately 300 meters in diameter.

Chicxulub Impact Crater

The environmental results of impact cratering can be staggering. Many scientists believe that the Chicxulub Impact Crater in Mexico is responsible for the death of the earth’s dinosaurs.

Moon Craters

Scientists have known there were craters on the moon since the telescope was invented. Moon craters are more easily studied because of the moon’s proximity to earth and the clear atmosphere. Moon craters can be quite large. The Orientale Crater is nearly 600 miles long.


Because of the possibility of negative effects resulting from an impact crater event, it is important that scientists continue to research impact crater sites on the earth as well as other planets. Impact craters offer a glimpse into the past from which scientists may learn about the future.