Impact cratering is the dominant geologic process in the solar system.  It has affected all terrestrial planetary surfaces, producing battered surfaces on Mercury, the Moon, and in the southern highlands of Mars.

Impact craters on Mars, Mercury and the Moon

    Impact events have even affected the atmospheres of the giant gaseous planets, as exemplified by the impact of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter in 1994, which produced Earth-size blotches in the atmosphere.

   Near-infrared image of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 impact event on Jupiter.

    Our own planet does not look as battered as Mercury or the Moon, but appearances are deceiving.  The Earth has been the target of approximately 10 times more impacting objects than the Moon, producing over 3 million impact craters from 1 km in diameter to more than 1000 km in diameter. However, other geologic processes on Earth, like plate subduction, mountain building, erosion, and volcanism, destroy impact craters and mask their effect on our planet.  Only about 160 surviving impact craters have been found thus far.

    Perhaps the most infamous of these impact craters is the ~180 km diameter Chicxulub impact crater on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.  Studies of the Chicxulub impact event and the mass extinction event that occurred on Earth 65 million years ago have demonsrated that impact cratering can affect the biologic evolution of a planet as well as the geologic evolution of a planet.

This web site will, over a period of several years, explore the environmental effects of impact cratering and the biological consequences of those effects.  Ideas will be explored and explained as they appear in the scientific literature so that students, teachers, and the general public can follow the exploration of scientists as they try to unravel the secrets of life, its origin, and evolution on Earth and the possibility of life elsewhere in the solar system.  New sections will be added to this site as warrented by new studies, so revisit the site in the future to read about the progress being made.


This web site is based on information originally created for the NASA/UA Space Imagery Centerís Impact Cratering Series.
Concept and content by David A. Kring.
Design, graphics, and images by Jake Bailey and David A. Kring.
Any use of the information and images requires permission of the Space Imagery Center and/or David A. Kring (now at LPI).