Earth  ID: 4572

The Hiawatha Impact Crater

The series of visualizations below are derived from satellite imagery and radar sounding. They portray both the location and size of the 31-kilometer-wide impact crater beneath Hiawatha Glacier. They also portray the structure of the glacier ice that flows into and fills the crater.

The Hiawatha impact crater was first suspected to exist in the summer of 2015, from examination of a compilation of Greenland's sub-ice topography radar measurements made by NASA over two decades. The visualizations of the subsurface shown below are derived from a spring 2016 airborne survey by Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute, using a new ultrawideband radar sounder developed by the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets at The University of Kansas. Subsequent helicopter visits to the deglaciated terrain in front of Hiawatha Glacier by scientists from the Natural History Museum in Denmark recovered sediment samples from the main river that discharges water from beneath Hiawatha Glacier, through the northwestern rim breach. Laboratory examination revealed that these sediment samples contained shocked quartz and elevated platinum-group-element concentrations, both signs that the sediment records evidence of the impact of an iron asteroid more than one kilometer wide. The Hiawatha impact crater is potentially one of the youngest large impact craters on Earth.

In the visualizations below, the elevation of the topography of the bed, the ice surface and the radar curtains have been exaggerated ten times in order to better illustrate their structure.

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Visualization Credits

Lead Visualizer:
Cindy Starr (GST)

Greg Shirah (NASA/GSFC)
Lori Perkins (NASA/GSFC)
Ernie Wright (USRA)

Joe MacGregor (NASA/GSFC)
Mark Fahnestock (University of Alaska)
Kurt Kjær (University of Copenhagen)

Jefferson Beck (USRA)

Project Support:
Joycelyn Thomson Jones (NASA/GSFC)
Leann Johnson (GST)
Eric Sokolowsky (GST)

Technical Support:
Laurence Schuler (ADNET)
Ian Jones (ADNET)

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

Hiawatha Glacier Gridded Bed Topography data is courtesy of Mathieu Morlighem (UCI).

AMSR2 data courtesy of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

The Blue Marble data is courtesy of Reto Stockli (NASA/GSFC).

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Data Used:
Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) Airborne Radar Survey of Hiawatha Glacier
Hiawatha Glacier Gridded Bed Topography
Canadian Digital Elevation Data
WorldView-1, WorldView-2, and WorldView-3, GeoEye-1/ArcticDEM 5-meter Digital Surface Model Release 4
TERRA/MODIS/MODIS Mosaic of Greenland (MOG) Image Map 2005
Greenland Mass Conservation Dataset - Bed Topography 1993 - 2013
Greenland Mass Conservation Dataset - Surface Elevation 1993 - 2013
SHIZUKU (GCOM-W1)/AMSR2/10 km Daily 89 GHz Brightness Temperature 02/07/2016 - 08/14/2016
SHIZUKU (GCOM-W1)/AMSR2/10 km Daily Sea Ice Concentration 02/07/2016 - 08/14/2016
Landsat-8/OLI/Band Combination 2,3,4
Terra and Aqua/MODIS/Land Surface Temperature 2005-08-13 to 2005-08-14
Terra and Aqua/MODIS/Blue Marble: Next Generation 2004
Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details nor the data sets themselves on our site.

DLESE >> Geology
SVS >> Greenbelt
SVS >> Ice Sheets
GCMD >> Earth Science >> Cryosphere >> Glaciers/Ice Sheets >> Ice Sheets
GCMD >> Earth Science >> Hydrosphere >> Glaciers/Ice Sheets >> Ice Sheets
GCMD >> Location >> Greenland
SVS >> Hyperwall
SVS >> Geology
SVS >> Craters
NASA Science >> Earth
GCMD >> Earth Science >> Terrestrial Hydrosphere >> Glaciers/Ice Sheets >> Ice Sheets
NASA Earth Science Focus Areas >> Earth Surface and Interior

GCMD keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation: Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version