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Explore Craters

Impacts Throughout History

Mountains, Craters and Rilles
Collisions in Space
while the solar system was young created many craters. Almost every solid object has signs of craters. The picture of the Moon at the left has mountains, craters and rilles.


 

Types of Craters

Craters with Rilles Craters with Rays and Ejecta These Moon craters at left have lines called rilles
where the ground has shifted sometime after a large impact.

 

When there is enough force the impact throws large amounts of material outward leaving rays as in the right photo.
 

Craters with Lava Flow

Impact craters are sometimes made with such force that rock melts and lava flows in the area as seen in the crater photo at left. The large dark areas on the face of the moon (called maria) are ancient lava flows. Before high powered telescopes were invented people thought they were seas. Craters with Ejecta Fills

 



If conditions are right, some material is thrown upwards and lands within the crater like this photo at right. This photo also shows smaller craters that happened after the initial impact.



Find out about these topics by clicking on the links below.

 

Craters in the Solar System

Scientists have found craters on the Earth and other bodies in the solar system.

Craters on Asteroid Gaspra Craters on Mercury Even asteroids can have collisions in space. The asteroid Gaspra at left has several small impact craters. Also, some moons seem to have been made from two or more collisions.


Mercury has been bombarded heavily with objects as you can see in the photo at right. The craters on Earth have been eroded by weather and removed by volcanic activity so they are hard to see as easily as these examples. The moon and Mercury have no recent activities that would conceal impact craters.

Barringer Meteor Crater, Arizona
To look at some of the craters on the Earth, click the image to another website by opening a new window.
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Could a comet hit the Earth? Click here for more about Near-Earth Objects.

The far side of the moon

 

An Apollo image of the far side of the moon showing a more rugged landscape:

 

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The Nine Planets
NASA Planet Facts
NASA Moon Exploration History

Click here to go to Moon Landing page

 

 

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Terms

Here are some basic terms used for describing craters.

Anorthosite
Rock of aluminum and silicates found on the moon.
Asteroid
Small, rocky world. Most asteroids are between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
Breccia
Rock made from pieces of rocks formed earlier.
Carbonaceous Chondrite
Stony meteorite containing chondrules and volatiles.
Chondrite
A stony meteorite containing chondrules.
Chondrule
Round, glassy part of meteorite made from silicates.
Ejecta
Pulverized rock scattered by impacts on an object's surface.
Mare
Lava flows on the surface of the moon. Plural, maria.
Meteor
Small rocks or sand making a bright trail through the sky as it burns in the atmosphere.
Meteorite
A meteor that has landed on the Earth.
Rays
Ejecta from impacts that spreads out away from a crater.
Rilles
Channels in the lunar surface.
Volatiles
Carbon compounds, frozen gase and other materials that when heated vaporize.

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