On February 15, 2013, the Russian city of Chelyabinsk was hit by a surprise meteor attack. Over 1,000 people were injured and hundreds of buildings were damaged, all from the explosion of a chunk of space rock measuring about 50 feet (15 meters) wide. It’s easy to imagine the impact a much larger asteroid might have on civilization. In fact, NASA tracks all asteroids anywhere near Earth which measure more than 0.6 mile (1 kilometer) wide, because an impact of this magnitude carries the potential to wipe out life as we know it. If you think it can’t happen – think again. Here are ten of the largest asteroid impacts of all time:
1. Vredefort Crater
About two billion years ago, an enormous asteroid crashed into the area now known as Free State in South Africa. The crater’s diameter of 118 miles (190 kilometers) makes it the largest known asteroid impact site. Also known as the Vredefort Dome, the crater was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005.
2. Chicxulub Crater
Some disagreement exists over the size of this impact site on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Estimates on its diameter range from 106 to 186 miles (170 to 300 kilometers). Aside from the fact that it may be the biggest crater on Earth, this could be “the big one” in terms of prehistory. Some scientists believe this crater was created by the asteroid impact that contributed to the demise of the dinosaurs.
3. Sudbury Basin
The second oldest asteroid impact on this list happened about 1.8 billion years ago. The force of the impact created this large basin in Ontario, Canada, which measures 81 miles (130 kilometers) across.
4. Manicouagan Crater
Here’s another crater that eventually became a lake, due to the fact that giant holes tend to fill up with water. In this case, it formed Lake Manicouagan in Quebec, Canada. This one is about 215 million years old, and has a diameter of 62 miles (100 kilometers). Even accounting for erosion from the water, it’s still one of the best-preserved impact in the world.
5. Acraman Crater
About 580 million years ago, an asteroid struck South Australia. It created this giant hole which is now located at the bottom of Lake Acraman, and it measures about 56 miles (90 kilometers) wide.
6. Morokweng Crater
Here’s another South African crater, this one located near the Kalahari desert. This one is about 145 million years old, and contains the fossilized remains of the meteorite – or in layman’s terms, rocks from outer space are in this hole. It’s now buried beneath the desert, so its width of 43 miles (70 kilometers) has been estimated by magnetic and gravimetric surveys.
7. Kara Crater
This impact site in Nunetsia, Russia is about 70.3 million years old, but even though it’s one of the youngest craters on our list it has suffered significant erosion. In fact, there seems to be some disagreement over whether this is actually two craters, the Kara and the nearby Ust-Kara nearby. The original diameter of the eroded crater is estimated to have been 75 miles (120 kilometers).
8.Chesapeake Bay Crater
Only discovered in the 1980s, this enormous crater was right under our noses for years. It was formed when an asteroid struck Earth about 35 million years ago in what is now Virginia. Estimates on its width are as high as 53 miles (85 kilometers). That may make it one of the smallest craters on this list, but keep in mind the entire state of Rhode Island is 48 miles long.
9. Woodleigh Crater
Another big crater down under is the Woodleigh Crater, located in Western Australia. This one was created by an asteroid that hit Earth around 364 million years ago. Unfortunately, because this crater isn’t exposed at the surface, no one can quite agree on its size. Estimates range from 25 to 75 miles (40 to 120 kilometers) wide. Either way, it’s still one of the largest asteroid impact sites on Earth. No image was available at the time of this writing.
10. Popigai Crater
At 62 miles (100 kilometers) wide, the Popigai Crater isn’t the biggest asteroid impact site, but it might be the most valuable. This crater in Siberia, Russia contains one of the largest diamond deposits on Earth. Apparently, when the asteroid struck 35.7 million years ago, trillions of carats of impact diamonds were created.
The information in this article was gathered from the following sources: