Yes, I guess you could say that geology is a hobby of ours. There are certainly some aspects of geology that interest me more than others, just as there are some that interest Kelly more. And one of the things about geology that really really interests me is studying impact craters, and there have been some interesting developments in recent weeks.
I was reading this story on HuffPost about the Vredefort impact crater in South Africa. Vredefort is the largest confirmed impact crater on Earth according to the Earth Impact Database over at the Planetary and Space Science Center at the University of New Brunswick. It’s also probably the oldest known crater on earth. Good thing, too. About a month or so ago several stories came out about how scientists had tried to reconstruct what happened when this asteroid (believed to be almost as wide as Rhode Island) smacked into the Earth well over 3 billion years ago. It wasn’t pretty. The scale is hard to imagine.
I first became interested in impact craters years ago, when I wrote a research paper on the event that probably wiped out the dinosaurs. The research I did for the paper just grabbed onto me on an intellectual level like few things in life ever have. Now, I had been finding fossils (mostly crinoid stems similar to these) in the creek near my parents’ house since I was a kid, and these things just sort of fed into each other. Impact craters got me more interested in geology, astronomy, paleontology, and a host of other related scientific fields. I eventually acquired my Meade ETX-90 telescope and used it to stare at asteroids and comets. I learned how to hook it up to my laptop and use software to guide the scope onto exactly what I wanted to look at. And my inner geek (hell, the outer one too) was just thrilled. In fact, I have not taken the old telescope out in a long time now (too much light pollution here in Boston) but I am reminded how much I should, because I do miss some stargazing.
Anyway, I even got the chance to visit some impact craters in recent years: Wetempka (late Cretaceous period and a bit under 8 km across); Wells Creek (Probably Jurassic period, about 12 km); and Flynn Creek (Paleozoic period, not quite 4 km across). And now that I live in the Northeast, there are a few in Canada (not to mention a probable or two much closer) that I might be able to see eventually, and who knows, it is not unheard of for people to find craters when they are not looking or them. How completely awesome would that be? This one in Canada was found by some guys with a metal detector. Kelly and I have one of those that we are hoping to use a lot this summer. I would be thrilled to find anything interesting at all, whether it’s an old coin, a gold nugget, or a meteorite fragment. Or pirate treasure. I’m really not picky.