Did you know there’s a subtle difference between a meteor and a meteorite? A meteor is an object that approaches the Earth from space, but burns up during it’s flight through our atmosphere. If, however, part of that object manages to reach the Earth’s surface, it gets promoted to being a meteorite.
So technically, Meteor Crater in Arizona should be known as Meteorite Crater. Because after visiting it, you’re left in no doubt that something not only reached the surface, it smashed into it! With a capital SMASH!
Meteor Crater was always high on my Bucket List. So seeing it in 2011 was a dream come true.
If you read my post The Day I Saw A Space Shuttle Launch, you’ll know I’ve always been captivated by anything to do with space. So how could I fail to be impressed by a crater almost 3900 feet in diameter, 570 feet deep, and with a rim that stands 148 feet proud of the surrounding flatlands, produced when an asteroid slammed into the Earth?!
Approximately 50,000 years ago, the Canyon Diablo Meteorite struck what is now the Arizona desert about 27 miles east of Flagstaff. Scientists (who incidentally call Meteor Crater, the Barringer Crater, in honour of Daniel Barringer, who first realised what it was) estimate that the nickel-iron asteroid was roughly 160 feet in diameter and weighed around 300,000 tons when it crashed into what was then a grassland plain.
At the time of the collision, the meteorite was travelling somewhere between 28,600 mph and 45,000 mph. It’s sudden stop upon reaching the Earth’s surface released the equivalent energy of a 10 megaton bomb.
The rocks from the point of impact were flipped outwards, such that the normal geological layering is reversed in the crater rim. And in the bottom of the crater, you have to go through 7-800 feet of ruble before reaching relatively undisturbed bedrock.
Unsurprisingly, the asteroid all but destroyed itself in this inconceivably violent impact. In fact, a large proportion of it simply vaporised! The remaining fragments were scattered over an area at least 5½ miles in diameter. The largest piece of the Canyon Diablo Meteorite recovered so far is known as the Holsinger Meteorite and weighs 1409 pounds.
Being privately owned, Meteor Crater isn’t eligible to be a United States National Monument. It is, however, classed as a National Natural Landmark, and quite rightly so!
If you’re as awestruck as I am by Meteor Crater, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?
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