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Arizona's Meteor Crater

Updated on July 11, 2015

Billed As The Most Famous

It’s been billed as the most famous and best preserved meteor crater on Earth. Arizona’s Meteor Crater located just minutes off Interstate 40 near Winslow is indeed the most famous and most visited.

Meteor Crater is almost one mile across, has a 2.4 miles circumference and is more than 550 feet deep. Scientist say it was created approximately 50,000 years ago when a piece of an asteroid traveling 26,000 miles per hour collided with our planet.

While usually called Meteor Crater, it is also known as Barringer Crater, named after scientist, Daniel Barringer, who first claimed the crater was made by a meteorite. Other scientists had theorized it was formed by ancient volcanic eruptions. Barringer was finally proven correct, making it the first known meteorite strike to be given credence by the scientific community. It became a National Monument in 1967. Of particular note, during the sixties, the site was used by astronauts as a training location.

Educational Sight

My family visited this educational sight in the mid 1960’s. At that time there was only a small, relatively unimpressive visitor’s center with the usual exhibits, displays and souvenir shop typical in these types of tourist spots. We were just young kids when our parents took us to see the Meteor Crater. My thoughts on the subject were “Who wants to see a big hole in the ground?” But I discovered it was much more than that.

However, today’s visitors are treated to a wider variety of attractions. It has become an international tourist magnet with outdoor observation trails and a wide screen Movie Theater.The theater’s movie presentation of "Collisions and Impacts" allows visitors to experience the incredible fury of the meteor's super-heated trip through the Earth's atmosphere and astonishing collision. The impact had the energy 20 million tons of TNT. There are also an interactive discovery center, unique gift and rock shop, and an Astronaut Memorial Park…all in comfortable air conditioned surroundings. The crater itself can be explored first-hand just outside the Visitor Center.

AKA Barringer Crater

While usually called Meteor Crater, it is also known as Barringer Crater, named after scientist, Daniel Barringer, who first claimed the crater was made by a meteorite. Other scientists had theorized it was formed by ancient volcanic eruptions. Barringer was finally proven correct, making it the first known meteorite strike to be given credence by the scientific community. It became a National Monument in 1967. Of particular note, during the sixties, the site was used by astronauts as a training location.

I don’t remember getting a guided tour by park rangers. What I do remember was the blustery wind at the crater’s rim. I can only assume it was a result of the crater’s curvature capturing it and funneling it upwards… just to cause me discomfort. But there were telescopes we could look down into the massive hole with.

Scientists suspect the impact was 150 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WW11. They also believe about 175,000,000 tons of rock were displaced. It is theorized that although most of the meteorite was vaporized by the Earth’s atmosphere it still weighed about 3000,000 tons and 150 feet in diameter.

Scientific studies show that all life forms would have been instantaneously decimated within a few miles of the blast. Even at seven miles out, life forms would have sustained serious burns.

Scientists continue working in the crater today, conducting various geological experiments. It is still a popular tourist attraction…one I’d like to revisit so I could see the modern day facility.

The Painted Desert and Petrified Forest are about 95 miles east of Flagstaff along Interstate 40 east of Holbrook, Arizona.

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    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      You are welcome as always my dear. I always love your comments. Makes me feel like I can really write. LOL...you know I can.

    • Lucky Cats profile image

      Kathy 

      7 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      John, thank you for this article about the Meteor Crater. Fortunately, I've seen it several times in my travels back and forth since moving to SE Kansas. It is an amazing site; one which inspires respect and awe for the tremendous power which was exerted upon the earth. Of course, you've added to the experience with the information and facts you've shared. When I drive very close by on August 2, I will make every effort to visit the crater, again. I'm going to print your hub so that I will have all the information in hand in case my time is, once again, short, thus limiting my visit to the exhibits around Meteor Crater. thank you , as always!!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      I’ve written something about the biggest crater (dome) in the world - in South Africa - in my latest hub. Perhaps you will find the detail I’ve given interested? Thanks for all the info in this hub – greatly appreciated!

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