[meteorite-list] Deep (but not economically satisfiying) impact

From: Darren Garrison <cynapse_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Sun, 25 Mar 2007 10:58:46 -0500
Message-ID: <js6d03pm0qcmm2em44brdfmqmm06mlc7ui_at_4ax.com>


Get your meteorite shirts here

The scary mother of all things beneath Stockton was recently announced: a giant
crater, likely caused by a meteorite that slammed into earth 35 million years

Admittedly, this 3.4-mile "space impact" contour is 15 miles to the west below
the asparagus of Victoria Island. For tourist purposes, though, we don't need to
split hairs.

The titanic "wet impact" ("wet" because 35 million years ago this area was
ocean) powerful enough to punch a 3.4-mile hole in the ground is terrifyingly
described elsewhere in today's paper.

But let's focus here. Do scientists, meteorite hunters, and National Geographic
film crews now make a pilgrimage here? Do they dig? What would they find?

And can we cash in on it?

"There's probably nothing down there - nothing extraterrestrial, probably,"
opined Geoffrey Notkin, a meteorite hunter and science writer.

Notkin operates a Tucson, Ariz., "meteorite adventure hunting tour" near the
site of the famous Barringer Meteorite Crater, a tourist attraction.

The apocalyptic force of the Victoria Island impact probably blew the meteorite,
already exploded by impact with the earth's atmosphere, to smithereens, Notkin

And most meteorites are largely composed of iron. Iron rusts away. Fragments of
the Barringer Meteor survive because they are only 25,000 years old.

Victoria is more than 35 million years, so forget about it.

"In my opinion, Notkin said, "they'll never find any actual fragments."

Sigh. Scrub my scheme for "Victoria Island Aspara-Venture Tours." Too bad. Those
"Wet Impact" T-shirts were going to fly off the shelves, too.

What is down there, then?

"Impact rock" called "breccia," Notkin said. Rock specific to meteorite craters.
Certain scientists specialize in it.

We're talking "impactites," rock, sand, dirt or mud, altered as a result of the
meteorite; "shatter cones," rocks underneath the point of impact; iridium.

But - ahem, Mr. Notkin - is any of this stuff, you know, valuable?

Only academically to the impact specialists for whom the Victoria Island crater
is an exciting addition to the 55 known impact crater sites in North America,
Notkin said.

OK, well, you know, not to be shallow. I suppose the, you know, wonder of it all
counts for something.

The thing below Victoria Island could be a piece of the moon. That's what some
meteorites are. It could be a chunk of Mars, a red refugee that sailed 35
million miles.

It could be the mantle or crust of a distant dead planet. It could be a roving
rhinestone from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, a relic of the
primitive solar system. A rock present in the delivery room when the planets
were born.

It could be older than the solar system.

It could be, if you could find a piece of it, the oldest thing you could ever
possibly touch.

"It's the only way that we earth dwellers can really touch space," Notkin said.
"When you hold a meteorite in your hand you touch a piece of the cosmos."

Awesome. But, um. Mr. Notkin, hypothetically here - you said probably no
fragments survive. What if one did? What would it be worth?

That would depend on its type, rarity, condition and aesthetic value, Notkin
said, but a good specimen could go for, "$1,000 a gram. More than gold,
platinum, even emeralds."

Sheesh. Once the destiny of California, America and Mexico was radically
transformed by the gold in them thar hills. Now there's a possibility, however
remote, that an even more valuable substance lies buried in them thar islands.

I mean, not to be crass here. I fully appreciate - I share in the wonder - of
this meteorite, which lets the imagination touch the contours of something as
vast as a human's capacity to marvel.

But I'm not dumping my T-shirts yet, either.

Contact columnist Michael Fitzgerald at (209) 546-8270 or
michaelf at recordnet.com. Visit his blog.
Received on Sun 25 Mar 2007 11:58:46 AM PDT

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