Driving through northern Arizona along highway I-40, and approximately 43 miles (69km) east of Flagstaff, near Winslow the landscape remains pretty consistent and unimpressive. Lots and lots of scrub brush dotted along mile after mile of flat desert landscape. So what lies just ahead is quite unexpected. Suddenly, out of the blue, the landscape makes a drastic drop off into a gigantic carved out crater. It is the breath-taking result of a collision between a piece of an asteroid traveling at 26,000 miles per hour and planet Earth approximately 50,000 years ago.

Meteor Crater aka Barringer's Crater lies at an elevation of about 5,709 ft above sea level. It is nearly one mile across, 2.4 miles in circumference and more than 550 feet deep.The center of the crater is filled with 700–800 ft of rubble lying above crater bedrock. An interesting feature of the crater is its squared-off outline. Meteor crater was originally thought to be formed from volcanic action which seemed logical because the San Fransisco volcanic field lies just 40 miles to the west.

It wasn't until 1903, that mining engineer and businessman Daniel Barringer came to the conclusion that this was a crater that was created by the impact of an iron metallic meteor. The meteor crater was initially discovered by European settlers in the 19th century and was then brought to the attention of scientists.

The crater was created about 50,000 years ago during the Pleistocene epoch. At that time the local climate on the Colorado Plateau was much cooler and damper. The area was an open grassland dotted with woodlands and inhabited by woolly mammoths and giant ground sloths. Most likely there were no humans living here at that time as the earliest confirmed record of human habitation in the Americas was long after this impact.

Credit Mike Hendren

Today the crater is privately owned by the Barringer family through their Barringer Crater Company which proclaims it to be "the first proven, best-preserved meteorite crater on earth." Although there are other meteorite impact sites around the world, this one stands out because of it's young age, size and lack of vegetation at the site. It is an international tourist venue with outdoor observation trails, air conditioned indoor viewing, wide screen movie theater, interactive discovery center, unique gift and rock shop, and Astronaut Memorial Park at the modern Visitor Center located on the crater rim. It is open to the public from 8 - 5pm daily and is a fascinating example of a time when outer space actually made physical contact with our earth.

Responses to "Arizona's Meteor Crater : Cosmic Connection from Outer Space"

  1. Anonymous says:

    Oh! Lord just imagine about 5 of those things hittiing the earth...

  2. shelley says:

    I visited this site while I lived in Arizona. It had to be the most awesome non-manmade site I had ever seen. I wish I could have spent more time there and hopefully one day will return with my grandsons so they can see it also.

  3. Jim says:

    The movie Starman had it's final scenes shot here. A really good movie starring Jeff Bridges as an alien visitor. Jeff is able to assume the body and language of a human. The climax has Jeff being chased by government guys and Jeff had to make it to the crater to be picked up by his spacecraft. Some really funny moments and poignant ideas. The photography really captures the immensity of the crater.

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