Meteor Crater is a meteorite impact crater approximately 43 miles (69 km) east of Flagstaff, near Winslow in the northern Arizona desert of the United States. Because the US Department of the Interior Division of Names commonly recognizes names of natural features derived from the nearest post office, the feature acquired the name of "Meteor Crater" from the nearby post office named Meteor. The site was formerly known as the Canyon Diablo Crater, and fragments of the meteorite are officially called the Canyon Diablo Meteorite. Scientists refer to the crater as Barringer Crater in honor of Daniel Barringer, who was first to suggest that it was produced by meteorite impact.
The crater is privately owned by the Barringer family through their Barringer Crater Company, which proclaims it to be "the most well known, best preserved meteorite crater on Earth". Despite its importance as a geological site, the crater is not protected as a national monument, a status that would require federal ownership. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in November 1967.
Meteor Crater lies at an elevation of about 1,740 m (5,709 ft) above sea level. It is about 1,200 m (4,000 ft) in diameter, some 170 m deep (570 ft), and is surrounded by a rim that rises 45 m (150 ft) above the surrounding plains. The center of the crater is filled with 210–240 m (700–800 ft) of rubble lying above crater bedrock. One of the interesting features of the crater is its squared-off outline, believed to be caused by pre-existing regional jointing (cracks) in the strata at the impact site.
The impact created an inverted stratigraphy, so that the layers immediately exterior to the rim are stacked in the reverse order to which they normally occur; the impact overturned and inverted the layers to a distance of one to two kilometers outward from the crater's edge. Specifically, climbing the rim of the crater from outside, one finds:
Meteor Crater today:
- Coconino Sandstone (sandstone formed 265 million years ago) nearest the top of the rim
- Toroweap Formation (limestone formed 255 million years ago)
- Kaibab Formation (dolomite formed 250 million years ago)
- Moenkopi Formation (mudstone formed 200 million years ago) nearest the outer foot of the rim
Meteor Crater is today a popular tourist attraction privately owned by the Barringer family, with an admission fee charged to see the crater. The Meteor Crater Visitor Center on the North Rim
features interactive exhibits and displays about meteorites and asteroids, space, the solar system and comets. It features the American Astronaut Wall of Fame, and such artifacts on display as an Apollo boilerplate command module (BP-29), a 1,406 pound meteorite found in the area, and meteorite specimens from Meteor Crater that can be touched. Formerly known as the Museum of Astrogeology, the Visitor Center includes a movie theater, a gift shop, and observation areas with views inside the rim of the crater. Guided tours of the rim are offered daily.