Meteorite Craters by Kathleen Mark

By Kathleen Mark

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

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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.

This one was even gloomier. " and he calculated that the mass of the meteorite was of the order of only a hundred thousand tons, and that it was probably destroyed on impact. Moulton was well aware of the blow he was delivering, for the unmistakable conclusion to be drawn from his reports was that further mining was inadvisable. However, he did not expect his advice to be taken. " In 1931 in his textbook on astronomy Moulton remarked that 27 28 the energy given up in a tenth of a second would be sufficient to vaporize both the meteorite and the material it encountered—there would be in effect a violent explosion that would produce a circular crater, regardless of the direction of impact, which alone would remain as evidence of the event.

Various features of the place were pointed out to him by S. J. Holsinger, a member of the mining company, who had spent four years camping on the rim while exploration was in progress. Branner was soon convinced of the meteoritic origin of the great hole and later stated his views at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Another interested person was H. L. Fairchild, of the University of Rochester, who also visited the spot. He agreed with Branner that if the crater was not of meteoritic origin, it was the most interesting geological puzzle of the present time.

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