Impact Cratering in the Solar System

Conversation Date: 
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM PDT (3:00 PM - 4:00 PM EDT)

Overview:    Impact cratering is, arguably, the most important and fundamental geological process in the Solar System. Indeed, impact craters are one of the most common geological landforms on the majority of rocky terrestrial planets, asteroids, and many of the rocky and icy moons of the inner and outer Solar System. It is also now apparent that impact events have profoundly affected the origin and evolution of Earth and produced benefits in the form of economic mineral and hydrocarbon deposits.

The destructive geological, environmental, and biological effects of meteorite impact events are well known. This is largely due to the discovery of the ~180 km diameter Chicxulub impact structure in Mexico, and its link to the mass extinction event that marks the end of the Cretaceous Period 65 million years ago. In recent years, it has also become apparent that, once formed, impact events also have certain beneficial effects, particularly for microbial life. The effects range from generating conditions conducive for the origin of life (e.g., clays) to varied habitats for life that persist long after an impact event, including hydrothermal systems in impact crater lakes. This may have important implications for our understanding of the origin and evolution of early life on Earth, and possibly other planets such as Mars.

Speaker:    Dr. Gordon “Oz” Osinski is an Associate Professor and the NSERC/MDA/CSA Industrial Research Chair in Planetary Geology in the Departments of Earth Sciences and Physics and Astronomy at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. He holds a PhD from the University of New Brunswick (2004) and a BSc (Hons) from the University of St. Andrews (1999), Scotland, both in Geology. Dr. Osinski’s research interests are diverse and interdisciplinary in nature. His main area of research focuses on understanding impact cratering as a planetary geological process, on the Earth, Moon and Mars. He has published over 100 papers in peer-reviewed journals and special papers and has given over 80 conference presentations. The focus of his growing research program is on the beneficial effects of meteorite impacts, from the implications for the origin and evolution of life, to the economic benefits as exemplified by the world-class ore deposits in the Sudbury region. His research interests also include the development of exploration technologies and techniques for application in remote and extreme environments both on Earth and in Space. He has received numerous awards for this research, including the 2015 Young Scientist Medal of the Mineralogical Association of Canada and the 2015 Florence Bucke Award from the University of Western Ontario. Dr. Osinski is also Director of the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration ( at Western, the Principal Investigator of the Canadian Lunar Research Network (, and the founder and first Chair of the Planetary Sciences Division of the Geological Association of Canada (

Resources:    Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration

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Recording Files:
Audio (15.1 MB)
Transcript File:
Transcript (121 KB)
Presentation File:
Presentation PDF (18.32 MB)