Sudbury Impact Structure


Few craters are as large, or as old, as this impact structure in southeastern Ontario, Canada.

Numerous craters on Earth are exceptionally compelling when viewed from space, displaying clearly visible rims and well-defined bowls. Not Sudbury Basin. It can take a moment looking at images to discern the shape of this impact structure amid the modern landscape. But few craters are as large or as old.

The object responsible for creating Sudbury Basin crashed into Earth about 1.8 billion years ago. That makes this crater in Canada fifty times older than Popigai—one of the world’s most well-preserved craters—which was created a mere 36 million years ago. Much of Sudbury’s original crater, thought to have measured at least 200 kilometers (120 miles) across, has been deformed and eroded. Despite this, the crater has had a lasting impact on the region.

The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired this image of Sudbury Basin in southeastern Ontario on September 11, 2020. Notice the many mines located around the basin, particularly along the rim. This is due to the abundance of ore deposits rich in nickel and copper, which were discovered here long before people were aware of the basin’s cosmic origin.

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Image via NASA Earth Observatory