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Click to enlargeChicxulub Crater

Chicxulub Impact Crater
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
PIA03379
Date Acquired: February 2000

This shaded relief image of Mexicos Yucatan Peninsula show a subtle, but unmistakable, indication of the Chicxulub impact crater. Most scientists now agree that this impact was the cause of the Cretatious-Tertiary Extinction, the event 65 million years ago that marked the sudden extinction of the dinosaurs as well as the majority of life then on Earth.

Most of the peninsula is visible here, along with the island of Cozumel off the east coast. The Yucatan is a plateau composed mostly of limestone and is an area of very low relief with elevations varying by less than a few hundred meters (about 500 feet.) In this computer-enhanced image the topography has been greatly exaggerated to highlight a semicircular trough, the darker green arcing line at the upper left corner of the peninsula. This trough is only about 3 to 5 meters (10 to 15 feet) deep and is about 5 km. wide (3 miles), so subtle that if you walked across it you probably would not notice it, and is a surface expression of the crater's outer boundary. Scientists believe the impact, which was centered just off the coast in the Caribbean, altered the subsurface rocks such that the overlying limestone sediments, which formed later and erode very easily, would preferentially erode on the vicinity of the crater rim. This formed the trough as well as numerous sinkholes (called cenotes) which are visible as small circular depressions.

Two visualization methods were combined to produce the image: shading and color coding of topographic height. The shade image was derived by computing topographic slope in the northwest-southeast direction, so that northwestern slopes appear bright and southeastern slopes appear dark. Color coding is directly related to topographic height, with green at the lower elevations, rising through yellow and tan, to white at the highest elevations.

Elevation data used in this image were acquired by the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour, launched on Feb. 11, 2000. SRTM was designed to collect 3-D measurements of the Earth's surface.

Credits: The mission is a cooperative project between NASA, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) of the U.S. Department of Defense and the German and Italian space agencies. It is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., for NASA's Earth Science Enterprise, Washington, D.C.

PLEASE NOTE THE ACTUAL IMAGE AREA IS ABOUT 1.6 TIMES AS LONG AS IT IS HIGH. For example an 8x10 inch print will have a 6 x 10 inch image area.


PIA03379
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