Top 10 most impressive impact craters of the world

List of 10 most impressive impact craters

Impact craters here have been listed by the visual impression which they create on visitors. For this these craters should be visible - e.g. not covered with sediments, not too eroded and still deep enough to look like craters.

We start with No.10 and at the end comes the best - No.1.!

10. Kaali crater

Kaali crater, Estonia
Kaali crater / Siim Ainsaar, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0
Location:Estonia, Saaremaa
Age:˜ 4 000 - 7 600 years
Diameter:110 m
Visible depth (including lake depth):23 m

One of the most recent impact craters on Earth is Kaali Crater in Estonia. This large crater formed some 4 - 7.6 thousand years ago and this could be the only large impact crater which formed in a populated area.

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9. Roter Kamm crater

Roter Kamm crater photographed from Landsat 7, Namibia
Roter Kamm crater / Landsat 7, USGS / NASA, public domain
Location:Namibia, Karas region
Age:˜ 4 - 5 million years
Diameter:2 500 m
Visible depth:130 m

The Roter Kamm crater (from German - "red ridge" crater) in the desolate sands of Namib Desert was created by a meteorite some 5 million years ago.

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8. Tenoumer crater

Tenoumer crater, Mauritania
Tenoumer crater, January 2008 / NASA / ASTER, Earth Observatory / CC BY-SA 3.0
Location:Mauritania, Tiris Zemmour
Age:˜ 21 400 years
Diameter:1 900 m
Visible depth:110 m

One of the best preserved impact craters on Earth is Tenoumer crater in Mauritania. This 1.9 km wide and up to 110 m deep crater is almost perfectly circular and was created by meteorite in Pleistocene, approximately 21,400 ± 9,700 years ago.

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7. Tswaing crater

Tswaing crater, South Africa
Tswaing crater with the saline lake in it / NJR ZA, / CC BY-SA 3.0
Location:South Africa, Gauteng
Age:˜ 220 000 years
Diameter:1 130 m
Visible depth:119 m

People have been living at Tswaing crater for more than 100,000 years but only in 1990 it was proved that this is impact crater.

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6. Aouelloul crater

Aouelloul crater from space, Mauritania
Aouelloul crater from the space / NASA/JPL, public domain
Location:Mauritania, Adrar
Age:˜ 3,1 million years
Diameter:390 m
Visible depth:53 m

More than 3 million years ago the desert near present day Atar was hit by some 20 m large meteorite and Aouelloul crater formed. Today this is one of the best preserved impact craters on Earth.

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5. Wolfe Creek crater

Wolfe Creek Crater, Australia
Wolfe Creek Crater / Kookaburra, Wikimedia Commons, public domain
Location:Australia, Western Australia
Age:< 300 000 years
Diameter:880 m
Visible depth:60 m

This crater - Kandimalal - was well known to local Djaru people and is centrepiece of several local legends. Local people even considered that it has been created by fallen star, the legend seems to tell a story about real meteorite impact!

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4. Amguid crater

Amguid crater, Algeria
Amguid crater / Bertrand Devouard and Florence Devouard, / CC BY-SA 3.0
Location:Algeria, Tamanghasset province
Age:< 100 000 years
Diameter:500 - 530 m
Visible depth:˜ 65 m

One of the best preserved impact craters on Earth - Amguid crater in Algeria - is also one of hardest to access. Some travellers report that this crater has been visited much less than the summit of Everest, at least in the modern times.

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3. Lonar crater

Lonar crater lake, India
Lonar crater lake / V4vjk, , CC BY-SA 3.0
Location:India, Maharashtra
Age:˜ 570 000 years
Diameter:1 800 m
Visible depth (including the lake depth):nearly 150 m

Lonar crater is unique impact structure - the only large impact crater in basalt on Earth with unusual soda lake in it.

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2. Pingualuit crater

Pingualuit crater, Canada
Pingualuit crater / NASA, Wikimedia Commons, public domain
Location:Canada, Quebec
Age:˜ 140 million years
Diameter:1 180 m
Visible depth (including the lake depth):3 440 m

Ungava Peninsula has a true natural wonder - Pingualuit crater. This is one of most impressive impact craters on Earth, possibly - the most impressive one.

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1. Meteor crater (Barringer crater)

Meteor Crater from the south, United States
Meteor Crater from the south / Steve Jurvetson, Flickr, CC BY 2.0
Location:United States, Arizona
Age:˜ 49 000 years
Diameter:1 180 m
Visible depth:170 m

The tale of Meteor crater (Barringer crater) is tale about success - hard won success of scientific thought through great offering, effort and mistakes.

This is one of the best preserved impact craters on Earth, truly unique place where one can learn, what happens when Earth is bombarded by a meteorite.

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Map of 10 most impressive impact craters

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Other articles about impact craters

Bombardment of the "uninhabited" Earth

There is a constant reminder how fragile is our existence - impact craters. We tend to forget that Earth is not an isolated fortress - it is part of the endless space. In space happen many things and collisions between the objects here are very common.

Earth is constantly bombed from the space: every 6 - 30 minutes a smaller meteorite falls on Earth. We don't see and know wast majority of these cases because Earth is... very sparsely populated! Judge yourselves:

Tabun Khara Obo, Mongolia
Tabun Khara Obo in Mongolia - impact crater in remote desert / Karl W. Wegmann, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
  • Some 69% of Earth is taken by ocean. Of course, not too many people are there. Thus remains dry land - 31% of Earth's surface.
  • 6% of this dry land is taken by ice sheets and glaciers - like Antarctica. Not too many people there either. Remain 25%.
  • 6% is taken by deserts and similar dry lands. Remain 19%.
  • Some 9% are taken by harsh cliffs, mountains. Remain 10%.
  • Much of the remaining 10% is not that densely inhabited either - remember about rainforests, taiga, northern lands...

Thus a smaller meteorite, which "decides" to fall on Earth, most likely will do this unnoticed. May be someone will notice a "falling star" but he will not have any possibility to dive in ocean or walk across the desert to look whether something has fallen on the ground.

Impact craters

Macha impact craters in Russia, map
Macha craters in Russia - traces of bombardment from the space some 7.3 thousand years ago / Gatis Pāvils, basing on Google Earth (2012), GIS Innovatsia 2013 and Gurov E.P., Gurova E.P. CC-BY-SA-3.0

If a larger meteorite falls on Earth, it is much harder not to notice it. Large meteorites fall with bright flash, thundering noise and leave a trail in atmosphere. If they hit the ground, the kinetic energy (they fall with a speed of several kilometres per second at least) creates spectacular explosion and leaves a crater.

Somewhat smaller craters have simpler structure - bowl-shaped, with fractured rocks below and a rim of upturned and disturbed ground around. But, if the impact is more powerful, a complex crater forms, which has rised middle part (the explosion has removed the land mass and a new intrusion comes from below) and concentric rings around the crater.

Research shows that life on Earth is very persistent - when large impact crater forms, large areas of globe turn into a true hell, but life returns soon afterwards. But in some cases the catastrophs just are too harsh and life needs many millions of years to recover. Last huge cataclysm took place 66 million years ago, when Earth was hit by at least 10 km large bolide, and, possibly, several more large meteorites.

As a result formed Chicxulub crater (now in Mexico, almost totally buried) and died out many life forms - including non-avian dinosaurs.

Such events can happen again every minute - in fact, they WILL happen, sooner or later.

How many impact craters are on Earth?

Veevers crater, Western Australia
Veevers crater in Australia / G. Winterflood, , CC BY-SA 3.0

Only a century ago the recognition of meteorite impact craters on Earth started. Meteoritics as a science started to develop in the late 1950s and discoveries of meteorite craters continue up to this day. Specialists consider that we know rather small part of the total number of meteorites. Most of such impact craters have eroded and covered with later sediments, leaving no visible traces.

Many geological structures are similar to impact craters - but impact origin has not been proved. Such "undecided" structures are quite common nowadays.

Currently (February 2013) there are confirmed 191 impact structures on Earth - but it is estimated that there should be several times more.

It is important to note that new impact craters are found also by the help of application "Google Earth". In such a way have been found such beautiful impact crater as Kamil crater in Egypt and a possible impact structure - Hickman crater in Australia. From time to time new craters form as well - such as Carancas impact crater in Peru, which formed in 2007.

Some world records

Hoba meteorite, Namibia
Hoba meteorite, Namibia / Damien du Toit, Flickr, CC BY 2.0.
  • Largest known impact crater: Vredefort impact structure in South Africa, Free State. Estimated diameter of this crater: 160 km.
  • The smallest impact craters are not measured - such small "holes" are short-lived. One of smallest recent craters could be the 6 m wide Kunya-Urgench impact crater (Turkmenistan), which was created in June 20, 1998 by approximately 1 tonne heavy meteorite.
  • The deepest impact crater (presently visible depth, without the depth of sediments) could be the 500 m deep Logancha astrobleme in Russia, it is 20 km wide. The 400 m deep Pingualuit crater (Canada) is mostly filled with 267 m deep lake - this could be the deepest lake in impact crater.
  • The oldest known impact crater could be the 100 km wide Maniitsoq impact structure in the western part of Greenland, whose age is estimated to be 3.001 billion years. This impact crater is not confirmed yet. The oldest confirmed crater is Suavjärvi impact structure in Russia, Karelia, approximately 2.4 billion years old.
  • The youngest impact crater on Earth is Carancas impact crater in Peru - this 13.5 m wide crater formed in the 15th September 2007. The largest impact crater in modern times (last centuries) could be Wabar craters (Saudi Arabia) - the largest crater is 116 m wide. Most likely these craters formed in the September 1704.
  • The largest known meteorite - Hoba meteorite (Namibia) - was 66 tonnes heavy in the 1920s, when it was found. This 2.7 by 2.7 m large iron meteorite managed to fall on Earth without creating a large impact crater.

Recommended books

Meteorites & Meteorite Impact Craters Around the World

Meteorite Craters Around the World - throughout Earth’s history, meteorites have pummeled the planet’s surface. These collistions have caused mass extinctions and even climate change on a global scale.

Meteorite Craters and Impact Structures of the Earth

During its five-billion-year history, Earth has been hit countless times by asteroids and meteorites. Over 150 crater-producing events have been identified, and this 1994 book describes all 139 sites worldwide at which evidence of the impacts can be seen. They range in age from recent craters formed this century to the highly eroded billion-year-old ancient craters.

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