Final Assessment Part 1: Impact Craters

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  • Topic: Impact crater, Solar System, Mercury
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  • Published : June 8, 2006
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SES4U Final Assessment Part 1: Impact Craters

An impact crater (impact basin or sometimes crater) is a circular depression on a surface, usually referring to a planet, moon, asteroid, or other celestial body, caused by a collision of a smaller body (meteorite) with the surface. In the center of craters on Earth a crater lake often accumulates, and a central island or peak (caused by rebounding crustal rock after the impact) is usually a prominent feature in the lake.

Ancient craters whose relief has disappeared leaving only a "ghost" of a crater are known as palimpsests. Although it might be assumed that a major impact on the Earth would leave behind absolutely unmistakable evidence, in fact the gradual processes that change the surface of the Earth tend to cover the effects of impacts. Fortunately, scientists have discovered some untouched craters around the universe.

Impact craters found on different planetary regions
The Moon
The surface of the moon is scarred with millions of impact craters. There is no atmosphere on the moon to help protect it from bombardment from potential impactors (most objects from space burn up in the Earth's atmosphere). Also, there is no erosion (wind or water) and little geologic activity to wear away these craters, so they remain unchanged until another new impact changes it. These craters range in size up to many hundreds of kilometers, but the most enormous craters have been flooded by lava, and only parts of the outline are visible. The total area of the moon is 37 930 000 square kilometers.

One of these craters found, is the Alfrancus C. It has a maximum diameter of 10 km and a maximum radius of 5km. It has an estimated depth of 1.2km.

Alfrancus C

Planet Mercury

Mercury is in many ways similar to the Moon: its surface is heavily cratered and very old; it has no plate tectonics. On the other hand, Mercury is much denser than the Moon (5.43 gm/cm3 vs 3.34). Mercury is the second densest major body in the...
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