All the known craters on Earth

This is a physical map of the Serra da Cangalha impact structure in Brazil, produced using the TanDEM-X mission digital elevation model.

It is one of more than 200 known terrestrial impact sites across all continents featured in a two-volume atlas, Terrestrial Impact Structures, compiled by geologist Thomas Kenkmann, from Germany’s University of Freiburg, mineralogist Wolf Uwe Reimold from the University of Brasilia, and Manfred Gottwald from the German Aerospace Centre (DLR).

It includes high-resolution topographic maps, satellite images, geological descriptions and photographs of the crater structures and their rocks, and what details we have of each impact event.

The authors’ motivation, no doubt, is that, as Kenkmann says, the formation of craters by asteroid and comet impact has always been a fundamental process in the Solar System.

As the planets developed along with their moons, these impacts played an important part in accreting planetary mass, shaping the surfaces of planetary bodies, and later influencing their development. And larger meteorite impacts eventually affected the development of life on Earth.

Today, mapping of what can still be seen of the impact structures on the Earth’s surface can be done by satellites in low Earth orbit. From 2010 to 2016, the DLR measured the Earth’s surface with TanDEM-X’s radar satellites. The acquired data allowed them, for the first time, to derive a worldwide terrain model with a height accuracy of up to one metre.

Gottwald and DLR colleagues described the TanDEM-X model in a 2017 paper.

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