There are 188 confirmed impact sites on Earth that we know about. There are thousands on the Moon. This isn't because the Earth is lucky but because weather, water, and plate tectonics have erased much of the evidence of cratering on Earth. If for no other reason, then, the ones we know about are exciting indeed, and can tell us an awful lot about the early solar system. Here are six notable impact craters from around the world.
1. MANICOUAGAN CRATER
Of all the craters in the world, this is the one astronauts might have the easiest time spotting from space. (Meanwhile, you can see it above.) The next time you're on the International Space Station, keep a close eye on Quebec, where this crater was formed during the Triassic. The crater has a concentric structure which was caused by shock waves from the impact.
About 66 million years ago, a 6-mile fireball slammed into the Earth, creating a 110-mile-diameter crater. Today, Chicxulub is buried beneath the Yucatan Peninsula. It's not the biggest impact crater in North America, but we owe this one a lot for ridding the world of dinosaurs, which made room for mammals like us.
El’gygytgyn might sound like the name of Cthulhu's kid brother, but it's actually an impact crater on the Chukotka peninsula in Russia. An asteroid 1 kilometer across smacked the Earth around 3.6 million years ago, creating a crater, and eventually, a giant lake within it. Paleoclimatologists love this thing because it's located in the Arctic, where climate data is hard to come by. Lake sediment, on the other hand, is rich with climate data, meaning that scientists can use the crater lake to study the climate of Earth's distant past, which may enlighten us about the future.
4. LAKE BOSUMTWI CRATER
Lake Bosumtwi in the Ashanti Region of Ghana is the result of an impact crater formed during the Pleistocene. The crater has not been forthcoming with information; it is surrounded by a dense rainforest that conceals shock features caused by impact. Scientists have drilled into the lake floor to get the shock data necessary to work out what happened there a million years ago (aside from a giant rock crashing into the Earth, that is).
5. POPIGAI CRATER
Here's all you really need to know about the Popigai crater: 35 million years ago, a fireball (technically a bolide, or extremely bright meteor) between 3 and 5 miles in diameter crashed into an area in Siberia that was rich with graphite. So great was the impact that it instantly turned that graphite into diamonds. What kind of conditions could cause such a thing? According to Geology.com, "A hypervelocity impact of a 5-kilometer-wide object would produce an energy burst equivalent to millions of nuclear weapons and temperatures hotter than the Sun's surface."
6. WOLFE CREEK CRATER
The next time you're in western Australia, you can visit Wolfe Creek Crater at the Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater National Park. The half-mile-diameter crater was discovered by Europeans in 1947 during an overflight, though the Aborigines long knew about it, calling it Kandimalal and explaining it as the spot from which a rainbow snake emerged. It is the second-largest crater in the world to have left behind meteorite fragments.