Meteor Crater. One Big Hole in the Ground Outside Flagstaff, AZ

Posted on October 30, 2014


Ever wonder what was going on 50,000 years ago?

I thought not. But for those ancient peoples living on or near a particular unbroken plain, 35 miles east of present-day Flagstaff, it was a memorable time.

Out of the northeastern sky, a pinpoint of light grew rapidly into a brilliant (1)

This body was probably broken from the core of an asteroid during a collision in the main asteroid belt some half-billion years ago.

Hurtling along at about 26,000 miles per hour, it was on a collision course with Earth. In seconds, it passed through our atmosphere with almost no loss of velocity or mass.

In a blinding flash, a huge iron-nickel meteorite, or perhaps a dense cluster of meteorites, estimate to have been about 150 feet across and weighing several hundred thousand tons, struck the rocky plain with an explosive force greater than 20 million tons of TNT.

downloadWhat it left behind was a giant bowl-shaped cavity, 700 feet deep and over 4,000 feet in diameter, or 2.4 miles in circumference.

Today, thanks to natural erosion, the crater is only 550 feet deep, equivalent to a 60-story building. The floor of the crater is large enough to hold 20 football fields, and if bleachers were ringed around the sides, over 2 million spectators could watch the action below.

At first, it was assumed that the gigantic hole had been caused by volcanic activity. But later scientific study, concluded in 1960, proved beyond a doubt that Meteor Crater was indeed the product of a giant impact event.

In fact, it was the first proven impact site on Earth, and remains today the best preserved site on Earth.

This is the largest meteorite fragment found at the crater.

This is the largest fragment found at the crater.

It has long provided a training ground for geologists and astrologists, as well as the Apollo astronauts prior to their trip to the moon in 1969.

Scientific study is on-going today in an attempt to better understand the formation – and future – of our universe.

It was designated a Natural Landmark by the Department of the Interior in 1968.

Posted in: Travel - Arizona