Meteor Crater, Arizona - Origins and Information

Meteor Crater
Meteor crater, located some 35 miles east of the northern Arizona city of Flagstaff is the best-preserved meteor impact site in the world. It was also the first site to be proven to have been formed by a meteoric impact. The crater was formed some 50,000 years ago by an asteroid estimated to be about 150 feet across, weighing several thousand tons and travelling at about 26,000 miles per hour. The meteorite struck the surface of the rocky plain with an explosive force greater than 20 million tons of TNT. In less than a few seconds over 175 million tons of limestone and sandstone were displaced and distributed in a radius of over a mile around the crater. The intense pressure transformed small concentrations of graphite into microscopic sized diamonds - a process that would normally take many millions of years. The bowl shaped cavity measures almost a mile in diameter and 2.4 miles in circumference - the floor of the crater is large enough to accommodate 20 football pitches comfortably. At 700 feet deep it's also as tall as a 60 story building.

Evidence suggests that the Native Americans were the first to discover the crater however the first documentary reference to its existence appeared in 1871, when a man named Franklin - a scout for General Custer wrote a report about it. From then on it was referred to as Franklin's Hole. Although local settlers, thinking it was just another extinct volcano, referred to it as Coon Butte. Then in 1886 iron-nickel meteorites were found by a cattle-herder, but believing they were silver he didn't report his findings until 1891. Eventually these discoveries led to the suggestion by some that they had been formed by a giant meteorite.

In the same year the chief geologist of the United States Geological Survey, G. K. Gilbert briefly visited the crater. He had earlier correctly concluded that the majority of the craters on the moon had been created by impacts, but wrongly concluded that Meteor Crater had a volcanic origin. In 1902, Daniel Moreau Barringer, a mining engineer from Philadelphia became interested in the site as a potential source for iron. Barringer was convinced the site had been formed by a giant iron meteorite and that the body of this was buried beneath the crater floor. In 1903 Barringer came to Meteor Crater and spent the next 26 years trying to locate the lump of iron mass. Barringer was correct - the crater was formed by a meteorite impact, but didn't know that the meteorite disintegrated entirely and therefore there was never a large mass of iron buried under the crater floor. Although he died in 1929 he lived to see his theory of impact origin being increasingly accepted by the scientific community. It wasn't however until 1960 though that the theory was proven beyond any doubt by Dr. Eugene Shoemaker, former Chief of the Branch of Astrogeology of the United States Geological Survey in Flagstaff. Today Meteor Crater is the source of continuing research and with its surface closely resembling that of the moon and other planets. Itís also a designated NASA training site. Over the years itís also been used in countless documentaries - including the Hollywood movie Star Man starring Jeff Bridges. View images of Meteor Crater by Richard Lumb here Flora. wildlife, trees, National Parks: Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon Info, Grand Canyon Map, Walnut Canyon, Walnut Canyon Info, Sunset Crater and Wutapki Monument, Sunset Crater Info, Wupatki Monument Info, Montezuma Castle and Well, Montezuma Castle Info, Montezuma Well Info, Petrified Forest, Petrified Forest Info, Painted Desert Info. Attractions: Apache Trail, Apache Trail Info, Apache Trail Map, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, Desert Botanical Garden Info, Meteor Crater, Monument Valley Tribal Park, Monument Valley Info, Oak Creek Canyon, Oak Creek Info, Slide Rocks State Park, Slide Rocks Info, Taliesin West, Taliesin West, Arboretum at Flagstaff, Arboretum at Flagstaff Info. and Towns and Cities: Flagstaff and envrions, Flagstaff Info, Prescott, Prescott Info, Route 66 Info.

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