Planetary Impacts

Part of Hall of the Universe.

the Wllliamette meteorite AMNH/D. Finnin

Impacts have played an important role throughout the history of the solar system. During the formation epoch, impacts built up the planets. A period of intense bombardment continued for hundreds of millions of years, with life on Earth developing only afterward. Impact craters are the dominant surface feature on the Moon, Mercury, and many moons of the gas giant planets. On Earth, a comet or asteroid impact contributed to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Impacts can affect the long-term evolution of life, and the question of future catastrophic impacts is not if, but when.