Astrogeology Science Center

Backscattered electron image of a vesicular impact melt clast from Meteor Crater
Backscattered electron image of a vesicular impact melt clast from Meteor Crater
Gene Shoemaker and group of astronauts by museum at Meteor Crater discussing Gene's geologic map of the Crater
Gene Shoemaker and group of astronauts by museum at Meteor Crater discussing Gene's geologic map of the Crater
Color Shade Digital Elevation Model of Meteor Crater
Color Shade Digital Elevation Model of Meteor Crater

Meteor Crater is a 180 m deep, 1.2 km diameter bowl-shaped depression located in Northern Arizona, near the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau. The crater was formed approximately 50,000 years ago by the impact of a 100,000-ton iron-nickel meteorite, ~30 m in diameter, which struck at an approximate speed of 12-20 km/sec. The Canyon Diablo meteorite, so named for the small canyon to the west of the crater, exploded with the force of over 2 million tons of TNT (or about 150 times the force of the atomic bomb detonated over Hiroshima). The impact blasted millions of tons of sandstone and limestone out of the crater, and this pulverized rock was redeposited on the plain around the crater along with fragments of the Canyon Diablo meteorite, impact melt (shock-melted sandstone and limestone), and metallic spherules (ballistically dispersed droplets of melted meteorite). This redeposited material is the crater’s ejecta blanket. Geologic and petrologic studies of Meteor Crater, especially the works of Daniel Barringer and Eugene Shoemaker, have demonstrated conclusive evidence for the impact origin of the crater and provided diagnostic scientific tools needed to recognize impact structures throughout the Solar System.

The Meteor Crater Sample Collection is an invaluable resource that makes available geologic samples from the Meteor Crater ejecta blanket. These samples were obtained during the 1970’s by USGS Astrogeology researcher Dr. David J. Roddy, who conducted a program of rotary drilling on the rim and flanks of the crater. The geologic samples in this collection were documented and curated by the USGS and are now available to the planetary science community for scientific research. The interactive map provides point-and-click access to a common repository of detailed sample documentation acquired during curation of the Collection. The interactive map and data repository may be explored to assist in selection of drilling locations and depth intervals for sampling requests. A typical sample for a near-surface depth interval consists of ejected sedimentary lithologies, impact melts, meteoritic fragments, alluvium and organic debris.

Sample Request Instructions

  1. Explore the interactive map and data repository, if necessary, to select drill holes and depths you would like to sample.
  2. Certify that you have read and agree to the Sampling Protocol.
  3. Complete and submit the Sample Request Form.

References

USGS Astrogeology Research Publications Using the Meteor Crater Sample Collection

  • Roddy D.J., J.M. Boyce, G.W. Colton, and A.L. Dial Jr. (1975) Meteor crater, Arizona, rim drilling with thickness, structural uplift, diameter, depth, volume, and mass-balance calculations, Proceedings of the Sixth Lunar Science Conference, Houston, 3, 2621-2644.
  • Roddy D.J. (1978) Pre-impact geologic conditions, physical properties, energy calculations, meteorite and initial crater dimensions and orientations of joints, faults and walls at Meteor Crater, Arizona. Proc. Lunar Planetary Science Conf. 9th, 3,891-3,930.
  • Hagerty, J.J., Clark, S.E., Hare, T.M., Hayward, R.K., Newsom, H.E., Wright, S.P., and McHone, J. (2010) A new repository for drill hole samples and remote sensing data from Meteor Crater, AZ. 41st Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, abstract #2213.
  • Hagerty, J.J., Gaither, T.A., McHone, J.F., and Sauer, K. (2011) SEM characterization of impact ejecta deposits from Meteor Crater, Arizona, 2nd Planetary Crater Consortium Meeting, abstract #1109.
  • Gaither T.A., Hagerty J.J., Clark S.E., Hare T.M., Hayward R.K., Newsom H.E., Wright S.P., and McHone J. (2011) Multidimensional characterization of impact ejecta deposits from Meteor Crater, AZ. 42nd Lunar Planet. Sci. Conf. abstract #1474.
  • Gaither T.A., Hagerty J.J., McHone, J.F., and Newsom, H.E. (2012) Characterization of impact ejecta deposits from Meteor Crater, Arizona, 43rd Lunar Planet. Sci. Conf. abstract #1601.
  • Hagerty, J.J., Gaither, T.A., and McHone, J.F. (2012) Characterizing impact ejecta deposits at
  • Barringer (Meteor) Crater, Arizona, 75th Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society, abstract #5296.

Selected References on Meteor Crater

  • Chao E.C.T., Shoemaker E.M., and Madsen B.M. (1960) First natural occurrence of coesite from Meteor Crater, Arizona. Science, 132, no. 3421, 220-222.
  • Kring D. A. (2007) Guidebook to the Geology of Barringer Meteorite Crater, Arizona (a.k.a Meteor Crater). Lunar and Planetary Institute LPI Contribution No. 1355
  • Nininger, H.H. (1956), Arizona’s Meteorite Crater: Past, Present, and Future, American Meteorite Laboratory, Denver, CO, pp. 232.
  • Shoemaker E. M., (1960) Impact mechanics at Meteor Crater Arizona: unpublished Princeton PhD Thesis, 55 p.
  • Shoemaker E. M., (1963) Impact mechanics at Meteor Crater, Arizona. In The Moon, Meteorites, and Comets, B.M. Middlehurst and G. P. Kuiper, eds., Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago, 301-336.
  • Shoemaker E. M., and Kieffer S.W. (1974) Guidebook to the geology of Meteor Crater, Arizona, Publ. 17, 66 pp., Cent. for Meteorite Stud., Ariz. State Univ., Tempe.

See Also

For more information, please contact Dr. Justin Hagerty (jhagerty@usgs.gov, 928-556-7173)