Western rocks the crater in unique Sudbury field course

Western University

Students examine evidence of an impact crater at Sudbury as part of a one-week field school about impact cratering.


Thirty-two students from Western and around the world will be journeying almost two billion years back in time in a unique, intensive one-week field course to study the planet’s second-largest impact crater.

Prof. Gordon (Oz) Osinski, acting director of Western’s Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX), will lead a graduate class to the Sudbury Crater, a terrestrial motherlode for space enthusiasts, in a field school to study impact craters.

“There’s no other field course in the world that focuses on impact cratering as this one does,” he said. “You can learn only so much from viewing a crater on a satellite image, watching a presentation or reading a book. Here, we glean information about impact craters that you can understand only from boots-on-the-ground. It provides an unparalleled glimpse into one of the world’s largest impact craters that then helps us better understand our solar system.”

The field course is a partnership with Western’s CPSX, the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) and the Solar System Exploration Virtual Institute (SSERVI) at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. The course is part of a series of field training programs the LPI created through NASA’s Lunar Science Institute and SSERVI programs. LPI, through its Center for Lunar Science and Exploration program led by David Kring, provides administrative and financial support. Kring, an expert in impact cratering who has also studied the Sudbury impact structure, is a co-instructor with Osinski, who is also Director of the Canadian Lunar Research Network. 

The Sudbury Basin was formed about 1.85 billion years ago when a comet slammed into Earth, leaving an astronomical wealth of mineralogical and geological information for modern-day scientists to discover and examine.

The class includes 15 Western students and students from the US, Belgium, and Alberta — all selected in a competitive process. “We’re not just supporting and teaching graduate students at Western but enabling other students to take this course, while continuing to build a hub of expertise at Western.”

“As NASA celebrates 59 years of space exploration, training the next generation of scientists is obviously vital to our future,” said Greg Schmidt, Deputy Director of SSERVI and Director of International Partnerships. “Partnerships like the one we have with Canada through Western University provide a great opportunity for students to learn in the field while strengthening our own important ties with international researchers and collaborators.”

Starting on Sunday, Osinski and the class will be tweeting their journey and discoveries through #SudburyImpact.

NOTE: Downloadable images are available below.

MEDIA CONTACT: Debora Van Brenk, Media Relations Officer, Western University, 519-661-2111 x85165, or on mobile at 519-318-0657 and deb.vanbrenk@uwo.ca

ABOUT WESTERNWestern University delivers an academic experience second to none. Since 1878, The Western Experience has combined academic excellence with life-long opportunities for intellectual, social and cultural growth in order to better serve our communities. Our research excellence expands knowledge and drives discovery with real-world application. Western attracts individuals who have a broad worldview and who seek to study, influence and lead in the international community.

 ABOUT LPI: The Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), a division of the Universities Space Research Association, was established during the Apollo missions to foster international collaboration and to serve as a repository for information gathered during the early years of the space program. Today, LPI is an intellectual leader in lunar and planetary science. The Institute serves as a scientific forum attracting world-class visiting scientists, postdoctoral fellows, students, and resident experts; supports and serves the research community through newsletters, meetings, and other activities; collects and disseminates planetary data while facilitating the community’s access to NASA science; and engages, excites and educates the public about space science and invests in the development of future generations of explorers. The research carried out at LPI supports NASA’s efforts to explore the solar system.

ABOUT SSERVI: NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) is based and managed at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. SSERVI is a virtual institute that, together with international partnerships, brings science and exploration researchers together in a collaborative virtual setting. SSERVI is funded by the Science Mission Directorate and Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Downloadable Media


Students examine evidence of an impact crater at Sudbury as part of a one-week field school about impact cratering.
Students at Western's impact crater field school, the only of its kind in the world, prepare to explore the planet's second-largest impact crater near Sudbury.