When a meteorite crashes into the Earth, the pressure and intense heat can melt and crush rock to create holes in the Earth’s crust. These holes can be deep as shattered material hurtle upward, causing a wide circular crater to form where the rock once was.
Meteors are pieces of rock, metal, or debris that fly through space and enter the Earth’s atmosphere.
With a meteor impact Earth, most of the heat and energy will melt the rock on the Earth’s surface.
When a crater is created, it can cause air pollution as debris rises into the air. Of course, this depends on the size of the meteor over a million years and longer this had happened in the past.
One thing to remember is most meteorites that fly from space burn up as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere.
Largest craters on Earth
The 5 most significant confirmed impact craters on Earth
- Vredefort crater, South Africa: 300 km diameter, 2023 million years ago.
- Sudbury Basin, Ontario, Canada: 130 km diameter, 1849 million years ago.
- Chicxulub crater, Mexico: 150 km diameter, 66 million years ago.
- Popigai crater, Russia: 90 km diameter, 35.7 million years ago.
- Manicouagan crater, Quebec, Canada: 100 km diameter, 214 million years ago.
A complex crater is when there is a wide hole that has a ridge and a dome that is located in the center of the whole.
Different Types of Craters
There are different types of craters that can be formed such as:
- Impact crater-An impact crater happens when something crashes into the crust of the Earth such as a meteorite. This causes the area of the crust to push the rock down and it causes the rock to be crushed. When the rock becomes crushed, some of the rock will shatter and fly around, causing the material around it to be pushed up into a circular formation. When the hole forms, it is the area that once had rock and now it is just a hole.
- Volcanic crater-A volcanic crater happens when volcanoes are formed. Some volcanoes are wide and shallow while others are very long and deep. When a crater is on top of a volcano, it is called a summit crater.
- Summit crater-A summit crater is when volcanic material is found near the surface of the Earth.
- Flank crater-A flank crater is a crater that forms on the side of volcanoes. When a flank crater erupts, it is dangerous because they are lower to the ground than other craters. This can cause there to be a lot of damage from the volcano.
- Explosion craters– An explosion crater happens when there is an explosion. When the explosion happens, it causes the material around it to be pushed and moved. Most of the time an explosion crater is in the form of a circle. The debris also lands in the circle and it causes the crater to be formed.
Earth is not the only planet that has craters. Most of the planets in our solar system have them
Craters can happen on the Moon as well!
When a meteorite flies through space and hits the moon, the rocks can explode and make holes on the surface just like here on Earth.
Craters that happen on the moon happen the same way that craters can happen on Earth.
Why Does Debris Hit the Moon?
Debris has a much easier time hitting the moon than it does the Earth.
The Earth has a layer of gases that form around the atmosphere that helps to protect the Earth.
When debris from space begins flying towards the Earth, most of the time the debris is burned on entry to our atmosphere.
The moon has no atmosphere so nothing stopping a meteor impact
We can easily spot craters on the Moon because it has no wind and no plant life to hide them.
Size and Shape of a Moon Crater
Craters on the moon are similar to the craters on the Earth and they come in different sizes, but they are usually circular in shape.
The size really depends on how much debris hits the moon as to how big the crater will be.
Meteors that are fast and big will make a bigger hole than a small and slow one.
Some craters on the moon have rilles. A rille is a line that is formed when a meteor hits the moon and then moves in a straight line.
Volcanic eruptions can cause craters.
Different types of Volcano like Shield volcano, Cinder cones, Composite volcanoes, and Shield volcanoes can erupt sending molten rock high into the atmosphere leaving a volcanic crater behind. It is usually a bowl-shaped feature within which occurs a vent or vent.
We know that volcanos are dangerous for people it’s not just the molten lava its the debris from these explosive eruptions that can cause the most damage.
Terms about Craters
Here are some important terms for you to know if you are studying craters:
- Anorthosite-anorthosite is aluminum and silicate rocks that are found on the moon.
- Asteroid-an asteroid is small rocks that orbit the planets. Some asteroids are found between Mars and Jupiter.
- Breccia-breccia is different types of rocks that are made from other rocks that were formed earlier in time.
- Carbonaceous Chondrite-Carbonaceous chondrite is a meteorite that is made of stone and has chondrules and volatiles.
- Chondrite-a chondrite is a meteor that has chondrules.
- Chondrule-chondrule is part of a meteorite that is made of silicates. This is glass-like and round.
- Ejecta-ejecta is the rock that is broken down and scattered by the impact that it makes on a certain surface.
- Mare-Mare is the flow of lava that is found on the moon.
- Meteor-A meteor is a small rock that flies through the atmosphere and burns, leaving a trail of light behind it.
- Meteorite-A meteorite is a meteor after it lands on the surface of the Earth.
- Rays-rays are pieces of rock that spread out from the crater and cause lines or circles to form.
- Rilles-lines that are found on the moon after a crater is formed.
- Volatiles-materials such as carbon or other gases are frozen and then when they are heated, they vaporize.
Crater Facts for Kids:
- The Barringer Crater is found in the Painted Desert in Arizona.
- The Barringer Crater was caused by a meteorite that was made up of iron and nickel. This crater is over a mile wide.
- The Spider Crater is located in Australia and is shaped like a spider with a dome and ridges. This crater is over eight miles wide.
- The Lonar Crater in India happened 50,000 years ago. This crater became a lake after it filled with water.
- Some scientists believe that a meteorite caused the dinosaur to be extinct.
- The Manicouagan Crater is located in Quebec and is over 60 miles wide. This is a complex crater because it has a peak in the center.
- Mount Fuji has a summit crater.
- Mount Etna has four summit craters.
- Volcanoes can cause craters when the magma hits into the water and causes the water and magma to bubble.
- When a crater is formed by magma hitting water, it is called a maar.
- A maar can fill a lake, and this is what causes it to form a shallow crater.
What Did You Learn?
- What is a crater? A crater is a hole that is found on the surface of the Earth or on the moon that is formed from something hitting into the surface such as a meteor.
- What can cause craters to form? Craters can be formed from explosions, volcanic activity or debris flying through the atmosphere.
- Why does the Earth not get a lot of craters? The Earth does not get a lot of craters because it is protected by gases in the atmosphere and most of the debris burns up before it hits the surface of the Earth.
- What is a crater that has a ridge called? A crater that has a ridge is called a complex crater.
- Why do we not see craters as clear on Earth as we do on the moon? Craters on the Earth are hidden by things such as water, grasses, and other things and they get smaller as the wind hits them. On the moon, there is no wind, plants, or water to hide the craters.
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