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Arizona's Meteor Crater — Effects of Impact?


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#1    Sentinel

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 07:46 AM

Everyone:

Greetings! I'm doing some fiction writing that involves Earth at the time of the Arizona Meteor Impact, approximately 50,000 years ago. The subject line pretty much sums up what I'd like to know, but allow me to expand on it a bit:

1. When the meteor was coming through Earth's atmosphere, what would it have looked like, and would anything on the ground as it went overhead been killed (i.e. atmospheric pressure, heat blast, etc.)? Would trees have been knocked down? Would animals have gone deaf from the sonic boom(s)?

2. What would have the blast radius been around the crater? In other words, could animals and plants miles away been vaporized or blown apart by a shock wave spreading out from the impact point? If so, how far would have this reached? Would it have been as bad as the Tungeska Event?

3. Anything else I might not have thought of, regarding Arizona's Meteor Crater?

On an unrelated issue, what was the world like during the last Ice Age, specifically, 14,000 years ago? I know the glaciers were still extensive at that point in time, although they were just beginning to retreat into an interglacial period. As a whole, would the world have been a drier place, especially near the glaciers (I'm assuming a lot of water would have been locked up in the ice)? How about the Med Basin? North Africa and the Middle East? Non-glaciated parts of Europe? I know a lot more land (especially in SE Asia and Indonesia, parts of South America) would have also been above sea level.

Any insights (or Web-based resources) you can provide to a wannabe writer would be most appreciated!

Sentinel


#2    Pax Unum

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 03:36 PM

The crater was created about 50,000 years ago during the Pleistocene epoch when the local climate on the Colorado Plateau was much cooler and damper. At the time, the area was an open grassland dotted with woodlands inhabited by wooly mammoths, giant ground sloths, and camels. It was uninhabited by humans, the first of whom are thought to have reached North America only around 13,000 years ago.

The object which 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. The speed of the impact has been a subject of some debate. Modelling initially suggested that the meteorite struck at a speed of up to 20 kilometers per second (45,000 mph), but more recent research suggests the impact was substantially slower, at 12.8 kilometers per second (28,600 mph). It is believed that about half of the impactor's 300,000 tonne (330,000 short tons) bulk was vaporized during its descent, before it hit the ground.

The impact produced a massive explosion equivalent to at least 2.5 megatons of TNT – equivalent to a large thermonuclear explosion and about 150 times the yield of the atomic bombs used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The explosion dug out 175 million tons of rock. The shock of impact propagated as a hemispherical shock wave that blasted the rock down and outward from the point of impact, forming the crater. Much more impact energy, equivalent to an estimated 6.5 megatons, was released into the atmosphere and generated a devastating above-ground shockwave.

For a meteorite of its size, the impact melted surprisingly little rock, though it produced high enough temperatures and pressures to transform carbon minerals into diamonds and lonsdaleite, a form of diamond found near the crater in fragments of Arizona's Canyon Diablo meteorite. Limestone blocks as massive as 30 tons were tossed outside the crater's rim, and debris from the impact has been found over an area of 100 square miles (260 km²). The shock of the impact would have produced a localized earthquake of magnitude 5.5 or higher.

The blast and thermal energy released by the impact would certainly have been lethal to living creatures within a wide area. All life within a radius of three to four kilometers would have been killed immediately. The impact produced a fireball hot enough to cause severe flash burns at a range of up to 10 km (7 miles). A shock wave moving out at 2,000 km/h (1,200 mph) leveled everything within a radius of 14-22 km (8.5-13.5 miles), dissipating to hurricane-force winds that persisted to a radius of 40 km (25 miles).

Despite this destruction, the Barringer impact did not throw up enough dust to seriously affect the Earth's climate. The area was likely recolonized by the local flora and fauna within a century. This did not much affect the crater itself; its preservation was aided by the local climate's shift to its present-day arid conditions.

The meteorite itself was mostly vaporized. Relatively large chunks of nickel-iron fragments, ranging from gravel size to blocks weighing up to 640 kg (1,400 lb), have been recovered from the debris field surrounding the crater. Several thousand tons of tiny nickel-iron droplets, the size of sand grains, fell in and around the crater after condensing from the cloud of metallic vapour produced by the impact. Very little of the meteorite remained within the pit that it had excavated.

LINK->Meteor Crater




#3    Sentinel

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 07:37 PM

Quote

The crater was created about 50,000 years ago during the Pleistocene epoch when the local climate on the Colorado Plateau was much cooler and damper. At the time, the area was an open grassland dotted with woodlands inhabited by wooly mammoths, giant ground sloths, and camels. It was uninhabited by humans, the first of whom are thought to have reached North America only around 13,000 years ago.

The object which 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. The speed of the impact has been a subject of some debate. Modelling initially suggested that the meteorite struck at a speed of up to 20 kilometers per second (45,000 mph), but more recent research suggests the impact was substantially slower, at 12.8 kilometers per second (28,600 mph). It is believed that about half of the impactor's 300,000 tonne (330,000 short tons) bulk was vaporized during its descent, before it hit the ground.

The impact produced a massive explosion equivalent to at least 2.5 megatons of TNT – equivalent to a large thermonuclear explosion and about 150 times the yield of the atomic bombs used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The explosion dug out 175 million tons of rock. The shock of impact propagated as a hemispherical shock wave that blasted the rock down and outward from the point of impact, forming the crater. Much more impact energy, equivalent to an estimated 6.5 megatons, was released into the atmosphere and generated a devastating above-ground shockwave.

For a meteorite of its size, the impact melted surprisingly little rock, though it produced high enough temperatures and pressures to transform carbon minerals into diamonds and lonsdaleite, a form of diamond found near the crater in fragments of Arizona's Canyon Diablo meteorite. Limestone blocks as massive as 30 tons were tossed outside the crater's rim, and debris from the impact has been found over an area of 100 square miles (260 km²). The shock of the impact would have produced a localized earthquake of magnitude 5.5 or higher.

The blast and thermal energy released by the impact would certainly have been lethal to living creatures within a wide area. All life within a radius of three to four kilometers would have been killed immediately. The impact produced a fireball hot enough to cause severe flash burns at a range of up to 10 km (7 miles). A shock wave moving out at 2,000 km/h (1,200 mph) leveled everything within a radius of 14-22 km (8.5-13.5 miles), dissipating to hurricane-force winds that persisted to a radius of 40 km (25 miles).

Despite this destruction, the Barringer impact did not throw up enough dust to seriously affect the Earth's climate. The area was likely recolonized by the local flora and fauna within a century. This did not much affect the crater itself; its preservation was aided by the local climate's shift to its present-day arid conditions.

The meteorite itself was mostly vaporized. Relatively large chunks of nickel-iron fragments, ranging from gravel size to blocks weighing up to 640 kg (1,400 lb), have been recovered from the debris field surrounding the crater. Several thousand tons of tiny nickel-iron droplets, the size of sand grains, fell in and around the crater after condensing from the cloud of metallic vapour produced by the impact. Very little of the meteorite remained within the pit that it had excavated.

LINK->Meteor Crater


Pax Unum:

Two words: Mucho gracias!

Now I'll be able to add a "hint" of factual truth to the otherwise out-of-this-world yarn I'm spinning. SF/F books were what got me interested in true science in the first place, even if they did take liberties with hard, scientific fact. Hopefully, what I'm doing will have the same effect on others.

Sentinel



#4    Pax Unum

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 09:03 PM

glad to help... good luck with your project  thumbsup.gif


#5    les b

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 09:24 PM

Quote

Pax Unum:

Two words: Mucho gracias!

Now I'll be able to add a "hint" of factual truth to the otherwise out-of-this-world yarn I'm spinning. SF/F books were what got me interested in true science in the first place, even if they did take liberties with hard, scientific fact. Hopefully, what I'm doing will have the same effect on others.

Sentinel
The meteor crater in Arizona happened about 50,000 years ago. It caused the painted desert, the grand canyon, the petrified forest and killed all the people known as HO HO kam.

Edited by les b, 28 December 2006 - 09:25 PM.


#6    Pax Unum

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 09:31 PM

Quote

It caused the painted desert, the grand canyon, the petrified forest and killed all the people known as HO HO kam.

what's your source? could you supply a link? or are you being silly?


#7    jesspy

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Posted 29 December 2006 - 07:06 AM

Id say he is being silly

But this sounds like an intresting topic to write about good luck

Mind tricks don't work on me, only money.

#8    Sentinel

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Posted 29 December 2006 - 07:58 AM

Quote

Id say he is being silly

But this sounds like an intresting topic to write about good luck


I hope he's joking, and this is from a guy (me) who quite likes the "far out" aspect of some things. wink2.gif

Anyway, thanks for the "good luck" wish. As it stands now, the meteor impact is going to serve as the jumping off point for a series of three stories, which will culminate with a Solar System-wide cataclysm that basically erases from existence the fact that we're not the first human civilization. The story bones are in place, so now all I have to do is flesh it out (i.e., building believable characters!) ... and that's not necessarily an easy task, particularly when one's trying to add an unusual twist or two to a plot that might otherwise be somewhat predictable.

We'll see how it goes. I want to get it done so I can get back to reading "real" books. My stack is already nine deep, and it's only going to get deeper.

Sentinel


#9    Bulldog1974

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Posted 29 December 2006 - 12:10 PM

There was a program on the History Channel about this subject last night. Very interesting.





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