Earth  ID: 4706

Greenland's Hiawatha 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. Subsequently, a team of scientist at Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute flew an airborne survey over the region in the spring 2016, using a new ultrawideband radar sounder developed by the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets at The University of Kansas.

Ice-penetrating radar sends radio waves downward into the ice sheet and measures the energy reflected back from within the ice sheet and the ground beneath. The radar data detects layers in the ice generated by climate events in the past. The radar data ("radargrams") is then displayed on curtains in the location where it was observed showing the layers in the ice.

As the visualization shows the plane flying inland over Hiawatha Glacier, the ice sheet is cut away, leaving the radargram on the interior cutting plane. At this point, half of the depression of the Hiawatha impact crater is visible. A green grid fades in over the surface of the ice sheet showing the location of the flights that collected the radar data in spring 2016. The entire ice-sheet surface fades away and the full crater is visible as arrows point out the locations of the peaks in the central uplift and a red cylinder shows the best-fit rim of the impact crater. Radargram "curtains" fade on and are subsequently removed two at a time to allow examination of the structure of the ice that fills the crater. Note that the lower layers of ice near the crater floor appear disturbed, while the upper layers appear smooth and undisturbed.

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.


Used Elsewhere In

Alternate Version

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)

LK Ward (USRA)

Stuart A. Snodgrass (KBRwyle)

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

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

Short URL to share this page:

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

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