Meteorite Craters by Kathleen Mark

By Kathleen Mark

The medical neighborhood has argued for many years over the foundation of huge craters on this planet. In a hugely readable model, Kathleen Mark recounts the attention-grabbing detective tale of the way scientists got here to acknowledge metorite craters, either historic and comparatively fresh.

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Sample text

They observed that fragments of the three upper layers of regional rock (from depths down to about 1,000 feet) were scattered concentrically around the crater out to a distance of about two and a half miles. More than a mile from the rim Barringer reported finding enormous boulders of limestone and sandstone which he estimated to weigh some 5,000 tons. It did not seem possible to him that a steam explosion could have exerted the force necessary to hurl such immense boulders over such great distances, and in any case stones hurled from explosion craters are usually composed of volcanic materials and come from depths greater than that of the upper rock layers.

As for meteorite craters, not only were they unknown, but the possibility of their existence was scarcely even considered. The great hole in the Arizona plains, now known as Meteor Crater, lies within the Colorado Plateau, a geologically unique region of some 150,000 square miles that includes parts of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. The region contains many peculiar and puzzling rock structures, many of which are of volcanic origin, and so it is hardly surprising to find that early interpretations of Meteor Crater attributed it to volcanism.

The collapse of underlying soluble material, such as salt, may create steepsided pits called sinkholes. Arid various types of holes and fissures occur near volcanic vents. Meteor Crater is not like any of these; but because it lies in a region of unusual landforms, where the effects of past volcanism appear on all sides, it is understandable that many early geologists (few of whom had ever seen it) accepted the opinion reached by G. K. Gilbert, after a brief examination of the great hole, that it had been formed by poorly understood volcanic processes.

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