Encyclopedia of Geobiology

2011 Edition
| Editors: Joachim Reitner, Volker Thiel

Asteroid and Comet Impacts

  • Charles S. Cockell
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9212-1_117

Definition

The impact of an extraterrestrial object (either an asteroid or comet) with the Earth’s surface.

Introduction

There are now over 170 asteroid and comet impact craters that have been identified on the surface of the Earth (Table 1). These craters represent a small subset of the total impacts that have occurred during the history of life. Today, impact craters probably represent something on the order of 50,000 km 2of Earth’s surface. Although this is a small habitat area, impacts are the only extraterrestrial mechanism capable of causing localized ecological disturbance. Because impacts are a mechanism capable of delivering a pulse of energy into ecosystems, from a geobiological point of view they present an important addition to the overall picture of how ecosystems are disturbed and how they recover through time. Comparison to other processes involving ecological disturbance and recovery including volcanism, glaciation/deglaciation, storm damage, fire, landslides, and...

Keywords

Impact Event Impact Crater Shock Pressure Thermal Pulse Pore Collapse 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles S. Cockell
    • 1
  1. 1.Planetary and Space Sciences Research InstituteOpen UniversityMilton KeynesUK