Encyclopedia of Solid Earth Geophysics

2011 Edition
| Editors: Harsh K. Gupta

Impact Craters on Earth

  • Richard A. F. GrieveEmail author
  • Gordon R. Osinski
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-8702-7_174


Impact crater. An approximately circular or polygonal depression formed by the hypervelocity impact of an interplanetary body (asteroid or comet) on a planetary surface.

Shock metamorphism. Irreversible changes to rocks and minerals, resulting from the passage of a shock wave produced by a hypervelocity impact.

The terrestrial record


The results of planetary exploration have demonstrated that impact cratering is a ubiquitous process that has occurred throughout solar system history. On bodies that have retained portions of their early crust, such as the Moon, older surfaces are dominated by impact craters, attesting to the importance of impact cratering in early surface and crustal evolution. The Earth is the most geologically active of the terrestrial planets and is constantly renewing its surface. As impact craters are surface features, the net result of this high level of endogenous geological activity is that most of the original population of Earth’s impact...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Earth Sciences SectorNatural Resources CanadaONCanada
  2. 2.Department of Earth Sciences/Physics and AstronomyUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada