The universe is an incredibly scary place – zipping comets, enormous black holes, quasars and neutron stars
The universe is an incredibly scary place – zipping comets, enormous black holes, quasars and neutron starsabound. Our planet, with the protective blanket of its atmosphere, is so much safer, right? That is except for when comets and asteroids hurtle down towards us from the heavens! Thankfully, most of them burn up in the stratosphere and don’t even make it to the ground. However, in some cases, asteroids and comets have left battle scars on Earth’s surface that are so vast and deep that even the ever-changing topography of our planet has not been able to cover them (just ask the dinosaurs!). Here are some meteor impact craters that you can visit around the world:
Lonar Crater Lake in Maharashtra, India
Let’s start our list with something closer home. Located in the Buldhana district of Maharashtra, about 10 hours from Mumbai, the Lonar Crater Lake was formed some time in the Pleistocene Epoch (approximately 52,000 years ago, however one study has claimed that it could be 5,70,000 years old). Finding mention in ancient scriptures such as the Puranas, the lake was once part of the Maurya Empire. It is the only known hyper-velocity impact crater in basaltic rock on Earth. The periphery of the crater is a haven for wildlife and migratory birds, and was declared the Lonar Wildlife Sanctuary in 2015. For history buffs, the Daitya Sudan Temple, which was built by the Chalukyas and has carvings similar to that of the famous Khajuraho temples, is worth a visit. Scientists are baffled by this lake as its waters are saline and alkaline at the same time! Here’s an interesting video you can watch that will pique your curiosity and might give you the impetus you need to visit this natural wonder.
Dhala Crater in Madhya Pradesh, India
A 1.5-hour drive from Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh, the Dhala Crater is not very famous, but makes the list because it is not just considered the largest impact crater in India, but anywhere between the Mediterranean and South-East Asia! Formed approximately 2,500 million years ago, it is a heavily eroded crater with a present-day diameter of a whopping 11km, which could have extended up to 25km when it crashed into our planet!
Meteor Crater in Arizona, USA
Also known as Barringer Crater, this is one of the best-preserved impact craters in the world. It was formed when a meteor approximately 160 feet in diameter slammed into this part of the world 50,000 years ago. The nickel-iron meteor was travelling at speeds upwards of 12km per second, going so fast that it was mostly vaporised upon impact. The crater is about 1.2km in diameter and 170m deep. There is also a very interesting museum here, and you can find more information about the impact site on their website.
Wolfe Creek Crater in Wolfe Creek Crater National Park, Australia
Located in Western Australia, the Wolfe Creek Crater was formed around 300,000 years ago by a meteorite that is estimated to have weighed 50,000 tonnes! It is the second largest crater in the world. The local Aboriginal people known as the Djaru have interesting folklore surrounding the formation of the crater, which they call ‘Kandimalal’. They believe that the round shape of the crater was formed when a rainbow snake slithered out of the Earth’s crust. Others believe that the crater formed when a star fell to the ground and caused a massive explosion – something that sounds suspiciously like an asteroid impact. Today, the crater is at the centre of the Wolfe Creek National Park, which is known for its gorgeous hiking trails.
Kaali Meteorite Crater Field in Saaremaa, Estonia
Believed to have formed about 7,500 years ago, the Kaali Meteorite Crater Field is made up of nine impact craters. Scientists believe that the meteor broke into pieces 5–10km above the planet’s surface, which led to the creation of multiple craters, some of which are very small. The Kaali craters have a prominent role in Finnish mythology. It is widely believed that the area was used for ritualistic sacrifices since a stone wall dating back to the Late Bronze Age has been discovered near the periphery of the main crater along with an unusually large number of animal bones. According to Estonian folklore, Kaali is the place ‘where the sun went to rest’.
The Shiva Crater Theory
Postulated by Sankar Chatterjee, the Shiva Crater Theory states that the geological structure consisting of Bombay High and Surat Depression west of Mumbai is actually a 500-km-wide impact crater. The controversial theory posits that this meteor along with the catastrophic impact of the Chicxulub crater of Mexico together are what caused the extinction of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period. If proven to be true, the Shiva Crater would be the largest impact crater on Earth!