• Earth Science

Lonar Meteor Crater

This project was concerned with the analysis and mapping of the Lonar meteor crater in Lonar, India.  The goal of the research was to develop a process for translating GPS points into an accurate physical model.  The work was conducted in collaboration with a team of geoligists led by Professor Adam Maloof who gathered data over the course of a month while walking around the crater with a handheld GPS device. 


  • Professor Adam Maloof
    Dept. of Geosciences, Princeton University

Time lapse of GPS data gathered during Prof. Maloof's field exploration

Lonar crater, India, is one of the youngest and best preserved meteor impact structures on Earth. As such, a team of geologists led by Professor Adam Maloof traveled to Lonar to gather data over the course of a month, walking around the crater with a handheld GPS device. In collaboration with Situ, this data, shown in time lapse above, was then transformed into a physical, meter scale resolution, model of the site, as well as applied to digital satellite imagery, seen below.


Satellite imagery of Lonar Meteor Crater

As individual researchers gathered GPS data on foot during days spent roaming the crater, Maloof's team traveled to Lonar twice to acquire sufficient data. A mapping of the crater before and after Maloof's second trip is shown below.




A process of data translation was ultimately used to study the geological characteristics and geomorphology of Lonar Crater. GPS coordinates were first imported into a 3D software as a "point cloud", revealing a visual trace of the geologist's movements around the crater.  


Top: GPS data. Bottom: Converted point cloud. 


This irregular field of points was then put through an interpolation algorithm in which the points were reorganized into a uniform grid.  A polygon mesh was then produced by connecting the dots of this dense grid, establishing an accurate 3d visualization of the crater and surrounding terrain.  


Top: Krigged point cloud. Bottom: Simplified point cloud.

Mesh detail of GPS derived model         

This mesh was then used to fabricate a 1:5000 scale physical model with a 3-axis CNC router, shown below.  Analytical information identifying rock boundaries and ejecta perimeters were projected onto the surface and inscribed and color coded on the model.

1:5000 scale CNC milled physical model 

Subsequently, the Lonar project led into other data translation and terrain modeling exercises. Situ Studio has been involved with modeling diverse geographic conditions such as Mt. Saint Helens, the East Pacific Rise and a large portion of the surface of Mars. Situ continues to collaborate with Prof. Maloof on work such as GIRI and the Trezona Fossil Reconstruction projects.