Cloudy with a chance of Meteorites: Impact craters of India

Cloudy with a chance of Meteorites: Impact craters of India

When we talk about meteors, we think about the one that killed the dinosaurs, or the Cheyabinsk event in 2013. Meteors have their own part to play in the history of earth, and so far there have been 190 confirmed impact craters created by such meteors throughout the globe. Fascinating isn’t it? What if I say a few such are located in India – do I have your attention?

What are meteorites?

Before I let out the locations of those craters, lets know a bit about meteoroids. We all know that meteoroids are rocky or metallic objects in the outer space. They can be as small as a marble, or as big as the Manhattan island.

Most of them just wobble and topple around in outer space, and some have taken a course towards the earth. But hey, there’s nothing to be alarmed about – most meteorites that enter the atmosphere completely burn before striking us. However, the history of Earth has taught us that some large ones do survive the heated atmospheric entry and impact the planet’s surface. When this happens, the energy in the form of the meteor’s incredible speed is released the moment it collides with the surface. The energy is so much that it excavates a large, circular crater.

The Barringer crater in Arizona, United States. The crater is 1.2 kilometres wide, and was created by a meteorite 50 meters in diameter. Image by Shane Torgerson, CC-BY.

An impact this severe will obliterate everything within miles of its range. We can only presume the event looks something like this:

You might have noticed that I’ve used three words in this context – Meteoroids, Meteors and Meteorites. How are they different?

Meteoroids are, as told before, rocky or metallic objects in the outer space. When they enter the atmosphere and burn, they’re called meteors (or shooting stars, as we commonly say). If the meteor is lucky, survives the wrath of the atmosphere, and impacts the earth, its called a meteorite.

Meteor craters of India

Two confirmed meteor craters are located in India, along with two others yet to be confirmed.

Lonar Crater

A confirmed impact crater, the Lonar Crater is located near the town of Lonar in Buldhana district of Maharashtra. It is about 1.8 kilometers in diameter, and was formed about 570,000 years ago, which is quite recent in the geological timeframe. The crater hosts a saline lake, fed by rain and two small streams.

Dhala Crater

Dhala Crater is the largest confirmed impact crater in India. The crater itself is peculiar, as its most noticeable feature is an elevated plateau at its center with a very random shape. The crater is located in Shivpuri district of Madhya Pradesh, and is about 11 kilometres wide. Studies have suggested that the formation is about 2500 million years old.

Ramgarh Crater

The next in the list is this impact crater in Baran district of Rajasthan. Ramgarh crater, listed as unconfirmed, is 4 kilometers wide, and not much has been studied about the geological feature.

Shiva Crater

Shiva crater is potentially the largest crater in India, and one of the largest in the world. Discovered by paleontologist Dr. Sankar Chatterjee, the crater is a whopping 500 kilometres wide located beneath the Arabian Sea off the western coast of India. The Mumbai high, an oilfield about 180 kilometres from Mumbai is located at the center of the unconfirmed crater. Shiva crater is unusually rectangular in shape.

Dr. Chatterjee argues that the crater was fromed about 66 million years ago, roughly the same time when the great extiction event that wiped out the dinosaurs took place. His hypothesis suggests the impact that caused the Shiva crater was the reason of the extinction event.

Numerous scientists remain unconvinced about the crater’s meteorite impact status, and hence the crater is a matter of debate to date. It is not a recognized meteorite impact crater in the geological community.

Wasn’t that interesting? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section and don’t forget to share this post with your friends! Until next time!

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