Backyard asteroid in Alabama?
Drilling for proof of an ancient crashJuly 17, 1998
Web posted at: 9:13 a.m. EDT (1313 GMT)
From Correspondent Rick Lockridge
WETUMPKA, Alabama (CNN) -- They aren't drilling for oil or water in Paul and Eleanor Schroeder's backyard. A team that includes geologist David King is digging deep, looking for evidence that an ancient asteroid hit here in central Alabama. ( 51K/4 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
For King, an assistant professor at Auburn University, that proof is a mineral called "shocked quartz," which only forms in the heat and pressure of an asteroid impact -- or a nuclear bomb blast. ( 281K/25 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
To find it, King and his crew of mining experts and scientists must drill through 83 million years worth of sand and sediment and find the bedrock below.
But even with $500 diamond-tipped drill bits, progress is slow, only a few inches per minute.
Still, the mission is intriguing for the non-scientists in the group. "We're not normally drilling meteorite impact craters," says Marsha Andrew of Vulcan Mining Company.
Eventually, after hours of drilling in 100-degree heat, the team reaches bedrock, 327 feet down. "(It) contains minerals which will prove to us that this is an impact event," says King.
Geologists were drawn to Wetumpka in the 1970s, after noticing a crater 4 1/2 miles wide.
According to King, the asteroid that made such a huge dent:
The speeding space rock would have caused an explosion as spectacular as some of those depicted in the recent movies "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon."
If that same asteroid landed here today, says King, it would wipe out nearby Montgomery, the state capital, and everything else within a 25-mile radius.
With an estimated 5,000-10,000 other impact craters still undiscovered on Earth, there are almost certainly other families living in the basins and valleys left by ancient collisions.
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