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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

6 Beautiful Photos of Impact Craters—Where Space Rocks Met Earth

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

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.

2. CHICXULUB

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.

3. EL'GYGYTGYN

NASA

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

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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

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

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

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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.

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AI Could Help Scientists Detect Earthquakes More Effectively
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Thanks in part to the rise of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, earthquakes are becoming more frequent in the U.S. Even though it doesn't fall on a fault line, Oklahoma, where gas and oil drilling activity doubled between 2010 and 2013, is now a major earthquake hot spot. As our landscape shifts (literally), our earthquake-detecting technology must evolve to keep up with it. Now, a team of researchers is changing the game with a new system that uses AI to identify seismic activity, Futurism reports.

The team, led by deep learning researcher Thibaut Perol, published the study detailing their new neural network in the journal Science Advances. Dubbed ConvNetQuake, it uses an algorithm to analyze the measurements of ground movements, a.k.a. seismograms, and determines which are small earthquakes and which are just noise. Seismic noise describes the vibrations that are almost constantly running through the ground, either due to wind, traffic, or other activity at surface level. It's sometimes hard to tell the difference between noise and legitimate quakes, which is why most detection methods focus on medium and large earthquakes instead of smaller ones.

But better understanding natural and manmade earthquakes means studying them at every level. With ConvNetQuake, that could soon become a reality. After testing the system in Oklahoma, the team reports it detected 17 times more earthquakes than what was recorded by the Oklahoma Geological Survey earthquake catalog.

That level of performance is more than just good news for seismologists studying quakes caused by humans. The technology could be built into current earthquake detection methods set up to alert the public to dangerous disasters. California alone is home to 400 seismic stations waiting for "The Big One." On a smaller scale, there's an app that uses a smartphone's accelerometers to detect tremors and alert the user directly. If earthquake detection methods could sense big earthquakes right as they were beginning using AI, that could afford people more potentially life-saving moments to prepare.

[h/t Futurism]

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Stefan Flöper, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
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Why There's a 4-Ton Steel Ball Making Mini-Earthquakes in Germany
Stefan Flöper, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Stefan Flöper, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

An earthquake is caused by the shifting of tectonic plates, the pieces of Earth's crust that make up the surface of the planet. But humans have figured out how to create artificial earthquakes without relying on Mother Nature. YouTube personality Tom Scott recently visited the world's oldest working seismic station in Göttingen, Germany, to experience one of these mini-earthquakes in person.

Wiechert'sche Erdbebenwarte Göttingen is home to a 4-ton steel ball that can be hoisted 46 feet in the air. When dropped, the impact sends shock waves through the ground. The power to manufacture earthquakes on demand helps the team calibrate their seismographs, but there's another reason the rig was set up: It proved the theory that artificial quakes can be used to measure the earth underground.

German geophysicist Emil Wiechert got the idea a century ago. By using seismic meters to measure the reflections of waves rocking an area, he hypothesized that he would end up with an accurate sketch of what the world looked like below. The steel ball was set up in Göttingen in 1903, and it proved his theory to be correct.

More sophisticated instruments are used to measure subterranean landscapes today, but the mini-earthquake maker still functions as well now as it did 100 years ago. You can see it in action in the video below.

[h/t Tom Scott]

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