National Geographic News
An illustration of the Chicxulub impact crater in the Yucatan Peninsula.

An illustration of the Chicxulub impact crater in the Yucatán Peninsula.

Illustration by Detlev van Ravenswaay, Science Source

Brett Line

National Geographic News

Published February 14, 2013

There's one physical connection that isn't going down after Valentine's Day this year: Earth and asteroid.

The asteroid known as 2012 DA14 will narrowly miss Earth this Friday, the closest asteroid flyby on record. But the planet has not always been so lucky.

Earth's craters are enduring testaments to direct asteroid hits. And though millions—in some cases billions—of years of erosion have made it difficult to determine the exact size of the meteorites, there is a general scientific consensus around the world's largest craters, which mark the largest asteroid impacts.

Here are the ten biggest known:

1. Vredefort Crater

Asteroid impact date: Estimated 2 billion years ago

Location: Free State, South Africa

Specs: Also known as the Vredefort Dome, the Vredefort crater has an estimated radius of 118 miles (190 kilometers), making it the world's largest known impact structure. This crater was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.

2. Sudbury Basin

Asteroid impact date: Estimated 1.8 billion years ago

Location: Ontario, Canada

Specs: The Sudbury Basin is considered one of largest impact structures on Earth, with an estimated diameter of 81 miles (130 kilometers). Dating back 1.8 billion years, it is also one of the oldest known impact structures in the world.

3. Acraman Crater

Asteroid impact date: Estimated 580 million years ago

Location: South Australia, Australia

Specs: Located in what is now Lake Acraman, this impact structure has an estimated diameter of 56 miles (90 kilometers).

4. Woodleigh Crater

Asteroid impact date: Estimated 364 million years ago

Location: Western Australia, Australia

Specs: This crater is not exposed at the surface and has led to many discrepancies regarding its actual size. Reports on its diameter vary from 25 to 75 miles (40 to 120 kilometers).

5. Manicouagan Crater

Asteroid impact date: Estimated 215 million years ago

Location: Quebec, Canada

Specs: This impact crater formed what is now Lake Manicouagan. Even with erosion, it's considered one of the largest and best-preserved craters on Earth, with an estimated diameter of 62 miles (100 kilometers).

6. Morokweng Crater

Asteroid impact date: Estimated 145 million years ago

Location: North West, South Africa

Specs: Located near the Kalahari Desert in South Africa, this crater contained the fossilized remains of the meteorite that created it.

7. Kara Crater

Asteroid impact date: Estimated 70.3 million years ago

Location: Nenetsia, Russia

Specs: Now greatly eroded, the Kara crater is a non-exposed impact structure in Russia. Some have claimed that the impact structure actually consists of two adjacent craters: the Kara and the Ust-Kara crater.

8. Chicxulub Crater

Asteroid impact date: Estimated 65 million years ago

Location: Yucatán, Mexico

Specs: Located on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, many scientists believe that the meteorite that left this crater caused or contributed to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Estimates of its actual diameter range from 106 to a whooping 186 miles (170 to 300 kilometers), which if proved right could mean it's the biggest.

9. Popigai Crater

Asteroid impact date: Estimated 35.7 million years ago

Location: Siberia, Russia

Specs: Russian scientists claim that this crater site contains trillions of carats of diamonds, making it one of the largest diamond deposits in the world. These diamonds have been referred to as "impact diamonds."

10. Chesapeake Bay Crater

Asteroid impact date: Estimated 35 million years ago

Location: Virginia, United States

Specs: Discovered in the early 1980s, the Chesapeake Bay Crater is located approximately 125 miles (201 kilometers) from Washington, D.C. Some estimates suggest this crater is 53 miles (85 kilometers) wide.


russia meteor picture


Pat Wendt
Pat Wendt

I cannot believe that the largest impact ever to hit planet earth located in the XiJian region, has not been recognized as such. There is a huge basin that appears to have been caused by a meteor or comet the came from the east hitting earth at an angle. This area is boardered by Kyrzstan to the north, Nepal to the south, Xijian to the east, Tajikistan to the west and Mongolia to the northeast.

Study that region via Google Earth. That entire area from China almost all the way to the Holy Land, is terribly convulsed and shows obvious signs of extreme heat and molten activitiies for thousands of miles. As one looks at the odd plateau that is the Andes which appears to have stopped the molten flow to the south, one realizes that whatever it was almost melted a mountain range. The molten activity seems to have flowed south below the southeastern edge of the basin the flow extending down into Yunnun. There is also a molten flow pattern going west from the basin to Kabal and south from Kabal.

The bible referrers to the lake of fire and I wonder if the region I am referring to was the actual Lake of Fire. Historians claim that the Dead Sea is the lake of fire because of it's depth and gas bubbles and similar phenominas that have occured on that sea. I believe that those activies may be due the extreme depth and a possible subterranian connection.

Another glaring factor in this theory is the evidence of extreme heat in this huge area.

An interest thought here is connected with ancient folk lore or myth that said that Lucifer became a comet and God threw Lucifer to the earth. There is a lot of discussion about Bible translations and whether they are literal. There is no conclusive answer but there is a lot about this universe that we don't understand.

submitted by Pat Wendt, Soldotna, Alaska

Chris Auito
Chris Auito

There was another one that hit Earth a little while ago. Now we call it the moon.

Chris Thomas Wakefield
Chris Thomas Wakefield

There is always more to a story than meets the eye and if it were not for laws passed by the guilty to protect the guilty, the public would know of the perpetrators of injustices before they are six feet under.
Was DA14 real? Probably, but possibly not. People often believe what they read, especially when legitimacy is implied by a position in a societal hierarchy. I would believe a scientist coming back from the field with data, the one who collected it and speaking face-to-face. But these days with so many ways to falsify data, the Internet where nothing is real, heartless and biased corporate interest in science and upper management of scientific organizations being leaned on by partisan international organizations, the truth is becoming more elusive.
Was it a random event that the Russian-Chelyabinsk meteor, biggest in a hundred years (Tunguska 1908) would arrive hours before NASA's 2012 DA14 to thoroughly upstage it? I think not...
My blog post on this upstaging of NASA.

Greg Wiens
Greg Wiens

Another HUGE potential impact site could be the east side of Hudson Bay, it is 1/3 of a circle. 

Greg Wiens
Greg Wiens

I am leading a group of grade 8,9 students under the guidance of the Canadian Planetary Science Center to check out an unusual lake called Red Berry Lake in central Saskatchewan Canada.  

We think it might be a potential impact crater because of it's unusual features, surrounded by a ring of hills.  We are going looking for "shock rock".  We have been given a whole bunch of indicators to look for.  It would be very cool if a grade 7 and 8 science class got to be part of finding an impact crater.  

Please look up Redberry Lake on Google Maps and see what you think.  It is also a much deeper than average lake in our area and it is a salt water body as the ring of hills does not let water flow out of it. 

Tell me what you think, and if National Geographic, if you want to help us in early June we would Love your help.  

Greg Wiens 

Douglas Baugh
Douglas Baugh

@Chris Thomas Wakefield This kind of stunning paranoia is becoming less and less surprising these days but it's still a bit of a shock to know that some are so unashamedly willing to display it to this degree on a public forum. I'm also surprised you were able to get an internet hook-up in a cave! Ain't technology great!

Barry French
Barry French

@Chris Thomas Wakefield You need to wake up and smell reality. I know it's nice to think that the whole world is out to get us but reality isn't that exciting. Scientists are here to help and NASA is one of the greatest things that has ever happened to humanity. Go to a doctor, get some medicine, and get better.

Chris Thomas Wakefield
Chris Thomas Wakefield

@Douglas Baugh @Chris Thomas Wakefield Mr Baugh, why do you assume that I wouldn't be aware of what I am doing? You hit on the key point of my motive: "unashamedly". Unless you are implying that I should be ashamed, which is really a reflection of the one who would say that of another who has honestly gone to a fair amount of work in my blog posts. If you have any knowledge of those who are paranoid you would see that I don't display that pattern. But it's easy to call somebody down, especially when they stand up and say what they believe (and thoroughly research) in a public forum. For your actions, I would say that you could take the advice of your own ill-advised comments.


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