[meteorite-list] Meteor(ite) crater discovered
From: Darren Garrison <cynapse_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Wed, 05 Nov 2008 17:17:00 -0500
Meteor crater identified
Posted By Alexandra Pope
Posted 4 hours ago
What local hunters in Whitecourt thought for years was a sinkhole is actually
the crater left behind by a meteor that fell to earth 1,000 years ago and is now
attracting international attention from researchers.
George VanderBurg, MLA for Whitecourt-Ste. Anne, said he was very surprised to
learn about the crater. He recalled going hunting with his father and using the
site as a meeting point. Deer could often be found drinking rainwater that
collected in the bottom of the crater, he said.
"All of us that have grown up here have known about it, but we didn?t know it
was the big scientific thing that it is," he said.
Chris Herd, a professor with the University of Alberta?s department of earth and
atmospheric sciences who is leading the research on the meteor crater, said he
couldn?t believe his ears when someone from the area told him about the crater
"We still joke about how skeptical I was on the phone, because we literally get
hundreds of these calls every year," Herd said in an interview at the crater
site last Monday. "This is very exciting."
The crater is 36 metres wide and six metres deep, which is small as far as most
craters go, Herd said. At an estimated 1,000 years old, it is also one of the
youngest craters in the world. The second-youngest crater in Canada, located in
Quebec, is 1.2 million years old.
Herd said the meteor, which was made primarily of iron, was probably formed very
early in the life of the solar system by the same process that formed the
earth?s core. Herd thinks the meteor came from the asteroid belt and measured
one metre across. However, researchers have so far found 74 different pieces of
the original meteor ? which is called a meteorite once it hits the ground ?
scattered around the crater, some up to 70 metres away.
"The big mystery is the relationship between the meteorites and the event," Herd
Herd explained that most meteors travel so fast, they are completely vaporized
when they hit the earth. In some cases the pressure of earth?s atmosphere slows
a meteor down enough to leave a portion of it relatively intact when it lands.
But something happened to the Whitecourt meteor on its way to earth, Herd said.
The meteorites found around the crater have sharp edges, which tell researchers
a story about what might have happened to the meteor before it hit the ground.
"The rock was ripped apart on impact or at a low altitude," Herd said.
"Otherwise the atmospheric pressure would have rounded (the edges of the
The site is one of only 12 of its kind in the world and has been very well
preserved, Herd said.
"It?s a phenomenal opportunity for the research that I do," he said.
Lindsay Blackett, Alberta minister of culture and community spirit, said the big
concern for local authorities is how to prevent meteorite hunters from coming to
the site and digging up meteorite fragments.
The province will designate the site as a historic resource and post signs
asking visitors to do their part in preserving it, but researchers fear that
won?t stop some meteorite collectors from stealing rocks.
"You really just have to count on the local community to keep an eye on it,"
Blackett said. "I think people having a vested interest in this site will
(encourage them) to keep an eye on it."
VanderBurg said once the researchers have finished their work, the site could be
a great educational opportunity for the public and local students.
"This is the kind of place that inspires kids to go out and seek careers in
science," he said.
Received on Wed 05 Nov 2008 05:17:00 PM PST