The Physics of the Impact Event
Astronomy and the Bolide Impact


Bolide impacts are so fast that much of the processes associated with crater formation and excavation occur in less than a second! For this reason, computer modeling and lab experiments must be paired alongside field data in order to fully understand these processes.

Computer modeling has come a long way in recent years. Scientists can model an impact event based on a variety of parameters (i.e. bolide velocity, angle of impact, etc.) and known equations, obtaining data on the physics of the impact itself.

Reis geological map

Lab experiments can also be helpful, and before computers, was the only means in which to model an impact event. Experiments as simple as dropping metal balls of various sizes from different heights into clay can help geologists better understand impact physics. In fact, experiments like these helped early geologists develop many of the equations relating impact crater size to size of the impacting bolide.