Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Terrestrial craters

Last weekend I took a group of students and other scientists from UNM to Meteor Crater, just down the road from us in Winslow, AZ. We circumnavigated the crater (~2.5 km) in the morning and spent the aafternoon looking at ejecta nearby. It was good to see again just what a crater form looks like in person. When you see pictures, craters tend to look like bowls with gently sloping sides, and it's easy to think of the rovers as skating down them like halfpipes. But when you really see them in person, impact craters are imposing features, lined with near-vertical cliffs and jagged outcrops.

It was a real treat to have a fellow MER scientist, proto-Dr. Shawn Wright from ASU (below, with me at the crater edge), join us there to show us some of the remote sensing he did of the crater. Shawn came fresh off field work looking at potential craters in South America and though tired, he was enthusiastic about guiding us to his favortite locations around the crater. At several stops, we could easily trace cliff outcrops and correlate specific ejecta lobes with remote sensing imagery because of Meteor Crater's unique (and fortuitous) target material: discrete layers of red siltstone, yellow limestone, and sugary white sandtone.

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