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An expanded Web version of segments seen on CNN

Backyard asteroid in Alabama?

King and his crew are drilling for evidence of an ancient asteroid  

Drilling for proof of an ancient crash

July 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)


Windows Media 28K 56K

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.

Closeup of
The geologists are searching for a mineral called "shocked quartz"  

Geologists were drawn to Wetumpka in the 1970s, after noticing a crater 4 1/2 miles wide.

VERY big blast

According to King, the asteroid that made such a huge dent:

  • Was traveling at a speed estimated at 12 miles per second.

  • Was probably the size of the Auburn University football stadium, which seats about 85,000 people.

  • Hit with force about 30 times greater than the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated on Earth. ( 153K/13 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

The blast from this asteroid may have been similar to the one depicted in the movie "Deep Impact"  

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.

But all it did back then was carve out a lovely vista for Paul Schroeder and his wife to enjoy millions of years later from their back porch. ( 85K/7 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

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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