Saturday, February 1, 2014

Meteor Crater, Arizona

After visiting the Grand Canyon for the second time in a week, I started heading east.  As I was leaving, I had to take a couple of more pictures of the canyon in morning light.

After breakfast I started driving east.    Although I have been to northern Arizona many dozens of times, I have never stopped at meteor crater.  This is s a meteorite impact crater located approximately 37 miles east of Flagstaff, and 18 miles west of Winslow.  Since the crater was used by NASA astronaut training, there is a large display outside the visitor's center with a practice space capsule.

Below is a chunk of the meteor that was stolen from the visitor's center in 1968 and returned in 2009.

Another chunk on display....

Approximately 50,000 years ago, a meteorite traveling about 20 km/s smashed into the Arizona desert. The explosion was equal to 2.5 megatons of TNT!  It created a crater that is just short of a mile wide and around 570 feet deep.  At first scientists were not sure what caused the depression in the earth's crust.  Over the years, convincing evidence has proven it to be a meteor crater including overturned rock layers around the crater, rocks that have been deformed by extreme temperature and pressure, and specific minerals that are created only by meteoric impacts.

At first people thought that large chunks of metal would be buried at the crater site.  Attempts to find and mine the metal were in vain.  Most of the meteor vaporized on impact.  Below is a chart showing a cross section of the crater along with the drill hole sites.

Some of the rock around the crater...

I left Meteor Crater and continued driving east to the Holbrook area.   Thanks to Gerald and Jill who shared with me the location on BLM land to look for petrified wood.  For the most part the petrified wood was not as colorful as that found in the Petrified National Forest, but I was able to collect some specimens.  The land was relatively flat with small mesas.  The wood was eroding out of the sedimentary soils in the mesas.

I thought about camping on the BLM land, but I was a bit scarred.  So I continued on and found an RV campground.  Since I was not plugging in, they let me stay for free.  Below is the sunset as I was driving out of the BLM land.  I was hoping that the upper clouds would light up -- but they did not.

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