Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Really Big Hole

Location: Meteor Crater, West of Winslow, Arizona

Click for Larger Image of Meteor Crater

Meteor Crater, 4000 feet in diameter and 570 feet deep, is evidence of the amazing damage an object from space, measuring only 54 yards across, can cause if it smashes into the earth from space. The object was a hunk nickle and iron, otherwise known as a meteorite, and it smashed into what would become Arizona 50,000 years ago.

The crater was assumed to be a volcanic crater for many years, but was eventually identified in the early 1900s as an impact crater by geologist Daniel Barringer. In his honor, the crater's official name is Barringer Crater, but it is commonly known simply as Meteor Crater. It is still privately owned by the Barringer family.

Click for Larger Image of View from Meteor CraterVisitors to the crater are not allowed to descend to the bottom, but it is possible to walk for a short distance on the rim. Looking towards Flagstaff's San Francisco peaks, with the road to the crater snaking in the foreground, it is apparent how high the rim actually is. The crater dwarfs everything in its vicinity -- in the first photo, people on a viewing platform (who are still above the crater's plunge to the bottom) are just dots when seen from the top of the rim. At the middle of the photo, a small fuzzy area is visible at the center of the crater. This is actually a six-foot high fence next to some old equipment that was used to drill cores.

Because the crater is in dry, arid land, it is the best preserved example of an impact crater on earth. There are many others that have been identified, however. Images of other impacts can be seen at



Did the meteor itself survive the impact?

O. B. Sirius said...

No, it mostly vaporized. There might be fragments buried underground, but there is no "hunk" left for us to mavel at.