About the Facility

APL’s Planetary Impact Lab (PIL) allows researchers to study one of the most widespread processes in the solar system: impact cratering. An impact occurs when one thing in the solar system collides with something else, such as an asteroid with the Moon. Each impact usually leaves behind an impact crater, which can range in size from tens of microns on individual grains collected from the Moon’s surface to enormous basins thousands of kilometers in size. In the PIL, teams of researchers do experiments to study how the outcome of an impact is influenced by factors such as the physical properties of materials and the speed and angle of impact. The results of these experiments are used to interpret observations of impact craters in the solar system, generate novel insights about how impacts work, help improve state-of-the-art computer models and better understand how to protect Earth from asteroid impacts.