Thursday, August 19, 2010

Meteor Crater

Also known as Barringer Crater, Meteor Crater is an impact crater about forty miles northeast of Flagstaff, AZ. It was created when a giant meteor collided with Earth approximately 50, 000 years ago. Native Americans considered it a sacred site and correctly believed that it was created by an extraterrestrial object, but American scientists at the end of the 19th century mistakenly believed it to be a steam explosion site. The area around Meteor Crater is volcanic, so their mistake is understandable. The original owner, Daniel Barringer, was an engineer from Pennsylvania who believed it was an impact crater from an asteroid and he wanted to mine the ore left behind by that asteroid. He got the claim rights because he was friends with President Theodore Roosevelt. Unfortunately for him, the meteor had obliterated. Along with local ranchers, the Barringer family has kept the site open for visitors for many years. They even let Apollo astronauts train here under the suggestion of famed geologist Eugene Shoemaker. Shoemaker proved once and for all that Barringer Crater was indeed an impact crater.

The layers of sediment along the walls are turned upward from the force of the impact; the rock is folded. The rocks surrounding the crater are actually very old rocks blasted out of the earth by the impact. They're usually found far below ground. Oh, and it's over half a mile in diameter, so it's pretty huge. It's privately owned, still by the Barringer family, so the entrance fee is kind of steep compared to what NPS charges to see similar things. It's $15 a person, $3 more than the mere $12 that gets an individual a look at the Grand Canyon, but I'd say it's still worth going to see. There aren't loads of well-preserved meteor impact craters lying around everywhere.
floor of meteor crater 1
This is the floor of Meteor Crater and those pieces of equipment are from Barringer's mining attempts.

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