menu 5 Solar System
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Practical Exercise 5: Size of Impact Craters on Earth

This activity is focused on measuring the dimensions of real impact craters on the Earth's surface using or Google Maps. Craters vary in size, from small (hundreds of metres) to very large (over 100 km). The impacts created by these craters have caused various climate changes; small impact affected only the local area, while larger impacts could have had changes of a global nature.

Practical Exercise: For each crater, find its location on the map, measure the dimensions and area of the impact crater, and determine the state in whose territory the impact crater is located. The position of the crater is given by latitude (N = north, S = south) and longitude (W = west, E = east).

Name of Impact Crater Latitude
Barringer's Crater 
This crater was formed 50,000 years ago
by the impact of an iron meteorite.
35° 02΄ S 111° 01΄ Z 1,2 1 Arizona, USA

One of the largest preserved impact craters,
it was formed more than 200 million years ago.

51° 23΄ S 68° 42΄ Z 69,3 3 200 Canada

Clearwater Lakes
These two impact craters were created
by the impact of a pair of minor planets
on the Earth's surface.

56° 13΄ S 74° 30΄ Z 32,4 and 22,1 930 a 360 Canada

Chicxulub Crater
This impact crater is difficult to find.
It was formed 66 million years ago by the impact of
a meteorite of 10 km.
The impact has released a lot of energy,
climate change and the extinction of many species ocurred.

21° 24΄ S 89° 31΄ Z more than 100 km - Mexiko

Upheaval Dome
This crater has all the features of a typical impact crater
– central Upheaval Dome peak,
inner crater and outer concentric impact rings.

38° 26΄ S 109° 54΄ Z 3,5 8 Utah, USA

Gosses Bluff
This impact crater was formed more than 140
million years ago by the impact of a 1 km minor planet.
The central circle is not the edge of the crater, it lies much further.

23° 50΄ J 132° 19΄ V 5,4 20 Australia

There are two more around the crater,
which are easy to find, the first is 166 km in azimuth 27°,
the second 376 km in azimuth 219°.
The crater was formed 20,000 years ago.

22° 55΄ S 10° 24΄ Z 1,9 3 Mauritania

A crater composed of several rings.
Age 2 billion years. Meteorite with a size of 10 km.

27° 00΄ J 27° 30΄ V 60 (inner ring) 2 000 Republic of
South Africa

Practical Exercise: Calculation of Kinetic Energy of Impact

The Chicxulub Crater was formed by the impact of a rocky body (density = 2 700 kg · m–3) with a diameter of 17.5 km. Calculate the volume of the body. Assume that the body is round.


Practical Exercise: Calculate the mass of the body that formed the Chicxulub Crater.


Practical Exercise: Calculate how much kinetic energy was released on impact if the body was moving at a speed of 20 km · s–1.


To give you an idea, it is the energy that the Sun emits over its entire surface in 4 thousandths of a second. Two units of the Temelín nuclear power plant can produce only 2 · 1017 J of thermal energy during continuous annual operation.

Practical Exercise: What is the meaning of the terms: comet, minor planet, meteorite, meteoroid, meteor?

Answer: Comet – a small body of the solar system composed mainly of ice and dust and orbiting mostly along a very eccentric elliptical trajectory around the Sun; minor planet – a small body (larger than 100 m) orbiting the Sun, mostly irregular in shape and of light mass, located mainly between Mars and Jupiter (the main belt) and behind the trajectory of Neptune; meteorite – a smaller cosmic body (originally a meteoroid) that hit the Earth's surface; meteoroid – solar system bodies the size of millimetres to several tens of metres; meteor – light phenomenon when a small body (meteoroid) flies through the Earth's atmosphere. It is popularly called the shooting star. A very bright meteor is called a bolide.