Meteor Crater in northern Arizona measures 2.4 miles in circumference and more than 550 feet deep. // All photos by Evelyn Talcott
Approximately 50,000 years ago, a 150-foot-wide piece of an asteroid weighing some 300,000 tons slammed into northern Arizona at 26,000 mph. The impact released as much energy as 2.5 megatons of TNT — equivalent to 150 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs. The blast blew down almost every tree within a 5-mile radius and sprayed pulverized limestone and sandstone a mile from ground zero.
Today, a crater nearly a mile across and more than 550 feet deep marks the spot. Known as Barringer Meteor Crater, this was the destination on the second full day of MWT Associates, Inc., tour to Arizona and New Mexico. The bright Sun gave us great views of the crater. Layers along the crater’s walls stood out in stark relief during our one-hour walk along the rim. Inside the exhibit hall, we got to touch a half-ton fragment of the iron-nickel meteorite that created the best-preserved impact structure on Earth.
Humans weren’t the only creatures basking in the bright Sun along the crater rim.
After leaving the crater, we took it easy driving through Winslow, Arizona, on the way to the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site. Established in the 1870s, the trading post remains a focus of economic activity in the Navaho Nation. During a brief stop, we witnessed an auction of traditional Navaho rugs and baskets.
We ended the day in Chinle, Arizona, just outside Canyon de Chelly. After darkness fell, we gathered in our hotel’s courtyard for some observing. The planets Venus, Mars, and Saturn dominated the sky. Several of us tried our hand at night-sky photography under the tutelage of tour lecturer and prominent astrophotographer Dennis Mammana.
Up tomorrow: the big day arrives as the Moon passes in front of the Sun
and brings an annular eclipse to Canyon de Chelly.
On the road: Annular eclipse trip, May 18, 2012