Lonar Crater, India - aerial photo
Credit: Public domain photo by NASA.

Aerial view of India's spectacular Lonar Crater. The impact crater is about 3,900 feet (1.2 km) in diameter. [1]

Identifying the best impact craters on Earth

Impact craters are sometimes called meteorite craters, although they are most typically caused by asteroids rather than meteors.[2] By definition, a meteor is 10 meters (about 33 feet) in diameter or less, and asteroids are larger than that.[3]

Below I share what is generally considered to be the very best impact crater on each of three continents – Asia, Europe, and Africa. Previously on InfoBarrel I’ve shared the best in South America, North America, and Australia – as well as an article dedicated to the best location with more visible craters than anywhere else on Earth, which is the Canadian Shield.

Impact craters wear away on Earth due to plate tectonics and weather, and most meteors or asteroids large enough to strike our planet actually will not make a crater the majority of the time anyway, because of the fact that 71% of the Earth’s surface is ocean. But there are currently about 190 known upon the Earth, with new ones being discovered almost every year.[2]

Lonar Crater in India
Credit: Public domain photo.

Ground level view of Lonar Crater in India.

Best of Asia: India's Lonar Crater

India has 28 states, and Maharashtra covers a large portion of western India.[4] Just to the west of the very center of the triangle-shaped Indian Peninsula is Lonar Lake, which inhabits Lonar Crater.[1]

The lake is about 3,900 feet (1.2 km) across and 450 feet (137 meters) deep. The crater rim is about 1.8 km (1.1 miles) in diameter. Lonar Lake is the world’s only saltwater lake sitting in basaltic rock. The crater is thought to be about 550,000 to 600,000 years old, putting its formation in the Pleistocene Epoch.[1]

When this asteroid struck the Indian Peninsula, the area would have been inhabited by Homo erectus, although modern Homo sapiens didn’t arrive in the area until much later (about 50,000 to 75,000 years ago).[5]

The town of Lonar, where the impact crater and lake are located, is not as heavily populated as some other parts of India. The town has about 20,000 residents, and the people primarily speak the Marathi language. The climate is tropical.[6]

Kaali Crater in Estonia
Credit: Wikipedia photo by Mannobult, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Kaali Crater on Estonia's Saaremaa Island is the largest of several craters formed in the same impact event a few thousands years ago. It is possible that humans were killed by this event.[7]

Best of Europe: Estonia's Kaali Crater

The age of this crater, which is the largest of nine craters left by an asteroid that broke up and crashed into the Earth, is thought to be between 4,000 and 7,600 years old.[7]

It is possible that the craters formed when some humans were present in the area, and it could be the only meteor we know of that has killed human beings. Ancient Finnish mythology from this time period contains a story that possibly describes this explosion, including describing where it happens as being in Estonia.[7]

The Kaali Crater is presently about 365 feet (110 meters) across. The other eight craters in the area range from 40 feet (12 meters) to 135 feet (40 meters) across.[7]

The nine craters are thought to have been formed by an asteroid that was originally between 20 and 80 tonnes (22 and 88 tons). Forests within about 6 km (3.7 miles) were obliterated by the impact, which had the approximate force of the nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima, Japan during World War II.[7]

They are located on a large island called Saaremaa, which is in the Baltic Sea and part of Estonia.[8][5]

Amguid Crater in Algeria
Credit: Wikipedia photo by Bertrand Devouard & Florence Devouard, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Algeria's Amguid Crater is a competitor for best crater on Earth, rivaling the famous Meteor Crater in Arizona. It has been well preserved due to its location in the very arid Sahara Desert.[9]

Best of Africa: Algeria's Amguid Crater

Located near the center of Algeria, this excellent impact crater was not known to Europeans or Americans until 1948.[9]

The crater is a young one, which is why it still looks so good, along with the fact that it is located in a very dry desert area. The impact is estimated at less than 100,000 years ago, during the late Pleistocene Epoch.[9]

Today the crater is about 500 meters (1,640 feet) in diameter, and about 65 meters (210 feet) deep. Its location is remote, and it would be difficult to visit.[9]

Coordinates, if you want to find where it is on Google Earth or Google Maps, are 26.088 degrees north, and 4.395 degrees east.[9]

The asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia on February 15th, 2013

This video includes the powerful shockwave that broke many thousands of windows (amongst other damage) throughout Chelyabinsk, Russia and injured 1,500 people. The asteroid exploded 18 miles (30 km) high. It was traveling about 43,000 miles per hour (69,000 km per hour), and was approximately 20 meters (67 feet) in diameter. This is the largest such event known to have occurred on Earth since the Tunguska explosion, which also took place in Russia, in 1908. [10]