SCIENCE: A meteor hit Laclede County 300 million years ago

Meteor Crater

Photo by Tim Tucker

This photo shows the outer rim of the meteor crater as seen from North Missouri 5.


When we hear the word meteor we may think of a Bruce Willis movie or a shooting star. You may also think of the surface of the Moon or maybe even the best preserved crater in the world, Meteor Crater, just west of Winslow, Arizona off Route 66. However, there is an example much closer to home. In fact, there is a meteor crater 16 miles north of Lebanon. The crater straddles the Laclede/Camden County line in Decaturville. The arched rocks of the crater’s southeastern outer rim are clearly visible in the road cut rocks along the highway near the intersection of Lilac Road and Highway 5. If you drive along Lilac and Livingston roads to the west, you will traverse the steep rolling hills of the inner crater ring.

Approximately 300 million years ago an iron-nickel meteor was estimated to be traveling at least 40 miles per second as it streaked through the sky over the central portion of the North American continent from the northeast the southwest. The meteor was possibly 400 feet wide and weighed 5 million tons. Striking the Earth at an angle of nearly 45 degrees, the meteor would have penetrated the ground to a depth of 6000 to 7000 feet leaving a 3.5 mile wide crater.

Meteor craters are rare feature on Earth. The Decaturville Crater is one of only 12 visible craters in the entire United States. Currently there is a debate in the scientific community to determine if the Decaturville site is part of a serial meteorite strike through Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas. There are several circular structures located along a 435 mile long path near the same line of latitude. Due to their alignment, these structures are referred to as the 38th Parallel Structures. Currently only two of the structures have been verified as actual meteor craters.

For the complete column, see the Tuesday print edition of The Daily Record, or view the e-Edition online.


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