Meteor Crater, AZ

Meteor Crater, AZ

Located between Flagstaff and Winslow, Arizona

The world’s best preserved meteorite impact site is between Flagstaff and Winslow, Arizona. This crater was is a result of an asteroid traveling at 26,000 miles per hour impacting the Earth approximately 50,000 years ago. At the time, the area was open grassland dotted with woodlands inhabited by woolly mammoths, giant ground sloths, and camels. The object that excavated the crater was a nickel-iron meteorite about 50 meters (54 yards) across, which impacted the plain at a speed of several kilometers per second during the Pleistocene epoch when the local climate on the Colorado Plateau was much cooler and damper. It is believed that about half of the impactor’s bulk was vaporized during its descent, before it hit the ground.

In 1891 Grove Karl Gilbert, chief geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, investigated the crater and incorrectly concluded that it was the result of a volcanic steam explosion.

Today, Meteor Crater is nearly one mile across, 2.4 miles in circumference and more than 550 feet deep.

During the 1960s, NASA astronauts trained in the crater to prepare for the Apollo missions to the Moon.

On August 8, 1964, a pair of commercial pilots in a Cessna 150 flew low over the crater. On crossing the rim, they could not maintain level flight. The pilot attempted to build up speed by circling in the crater to climb over the rim. During the attempted climb out, the aircraft stalled, crashed, and caught fire. Both occupants were severely injured but survived their ordeal.

All attempts at finding the core intact below the crater have been abandoned. Scientists now believe the meteor exploded on impact, and that much of its material vaporized into the air.

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