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7 asteroid impacts on Earth

By: Katherine Butler on Nov. 25, 2012, 12:07 p.m.
asteroid impact crater in South Africa

Photo: NASA

5 of 9

Vredefort Dome, South Africa

At around 300 kilometers (186.4 miles) wide, the Vredefort Dome is the largest verified impact crater on Earth. The colors swirl together to make the crater look like something Vincent Van Gogh might have imagined.

Located in South Africa, the crater is thought to be 2 billion years old. It was created by an asteroid that was only 10 kilometers in width. At the time, life on Earth consisted of microscopic plant life. Experts are sure that if evolution had been further along at the time of impact, it would have annihilated most life on the planet. The force of the impact that created it has been compared to a blast 10 times bigger than the explosion of every nuclear bomb on the planet.

For the last 150,000 years, the crater — with its landscape of mountains and hills — has served as a home for humans. The Vredefort Dome provides shelter and good grazing land.