While we were driving to Henderson, NV to visit family we passed by Meteor Crater Natural Landmark just east of Flagstaff, AZ (Meteor Crater Enterprises, Inc., Interstate 40, Exit 233, Winslow, AZ 86047 USA). We were in no hurry so we took the time to visit. As you can see from the aerial photo above, the crater is quite large.
The meteorite that created the crater 50,000 years ago is estimated to have weighed 300,000 tons and was traveling at a speed of 26,000 miles per hour when it hit the Earth. The meteorite exploded with the force of 2 ½ million tons of TNT. In the photo above you can see the largest found fragment of the mostly iron meteorite.
The resulting crater was 3/4 of a mile (about 1 kilometer) wide and 750 feet deep. Over the intervening 50,000 years, the crater has filled in some so that it is now only 550 feet deep.
To give you some perspective of the size, they have placed a 6′ astronaut figure (because the astronauts headed to the Moon trained here) and a 4′ x 6′ US flag at the base of the crater. They are placed inside the red circle in the photo above.
Of course, you can’t see them with the naked eye. Even in the close up above you can’t see them.
I had to use one of the prepositioned telescopes at the visitor center observation deck to see them. With a little effort, I captured a photo with my iPhone. That does put the distance in perspective!
There is a nice visitor center (far right) with a film and museum on the edge of the crater. You can also see in the photo above how the rim of the crater is raised almost 150′ above the level of the ground. This is because the meteorite buried itself into the ground before exploding. That explosion pushed the edge of the crater up as well as spreading millions of small meteorite bits around the area.
We were also on a short guided (man in yellow) tour that went about a quarter of a mile west along the north rim of the crater.
We thought that this side trip was well worth the expense (Adults: $18.00, Seniors (60+): $16.00, Juniors: (age 6 to 17) $9.00, Non-Active Duty U.S. Military/Veterans (with I.D.): $9.00) and time.
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