Those close to me know that I am a science buff; one of my role models as a teenager was Carl Sagan. Space has always been a fascination of mine. And ever since the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet hit Jupiter in 1994 I have been both excited about and scared of meteorites.
So I could not pass up an opportunity to see Meteor Crater during my visit to Arizona. We traveled to the impact crater from the unimproved roads coming from the mountains south of the site. We could see its light-colored rim from a dozen miles away sticking up from the flat horizon.
Around fifty-thousand years old, Meteor Crater is the site where an estimated 150-foot iron-nickel meteor struck. The impact probably killed all large animals for miles. Pulverized materials both terrestrial and astral showered the countryside, leaving a crater that is still over 500 feet deep and almost a mile wide.
While there are impact craters the world over, Meteor Crater is the best preserved crater on Earth—erosion has not yet had time to wind it down.
I would recommend that anyone interested in science, geology or history go see Meteor Crater. Considering the fact that the meteor whose impact made this hole in the earth was relatively small, it forces some sobering thoughts on your mind.
Back in 1999 I was lucky enough to witness a meteorite. While driving west along Clime Road in Columbus, my wife at the time and I saw a green fireball cruising from the southwest to the northeast. From my perspective, the object looked like it was falling to pieces—chunks of green flames dripped from the trail. I assumed it was a jet crashing nearby—it looked no higher than a couple hundred feet in the air, and I assumed the green was from jet fuel.
As it turned out, the object was much higher than I had judged. My perspective (that the object was low and about to crash in my city) was erroneous by far—the fireball was seen across the entire Midwest and came to rest somewhere around the East Coast. If my memory serves me, that fireball was a desk-to-Volkswagen-sized object (according to news reports at the time.) Read the NASA report on this event.
Most people live their lives without seeing something like that. I am happy that I saw the small fireball; I just hope we don’t have to deal with any impacts as large as Meteor Crater or larger.