Impact Cratering Comes of Age

Science  20 Jun 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5627, pp. 1889-1890
DOI: 10.1126/science.1080687

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In 1994, fragments of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 smashed into the atmosphere of Jupiter. The event illustrated how important impact cratering has been, and still is, for all solid bodies in the solar system. In his Perspective, Reimold charts the history of research into impact cratering, which began in earnest when the Apollo missions returned lunar samples. Many of these samples showed signs of shock deformation that could only have been created by major impacts. Today, there is evidence for past impact events throughout Earth's history. Major impact have been implicated in several mass extinctions, and surveys and space exploration are investigating the future threat from asteroid and comet impact to humankind.