Sunday, April 1, 2012

Earth’s Haunting Craters

1. Meteor Crater, Arizona — Photographer Stan Gaz was in Arizona when he came across a postcard of the Meteor Crater.

“The postcard intrigued me, so I went to see it,” he said. “My father was a geologist. He would take me on these expeditional trips to go rock hunting when he was alive, when I was a kid. When I saw the crater it made me think of him, what he would have thought, what his reaction would have been. Immediately I thought, ‘I’m going to look into this more.’”

In 2003, Gaz launched into a six-year-long global project of tracking down and photographing the planet’s cosmic scars, beginning with Meteor Crater. The results speak for themselves: haunting, otherworldly images of craters that are familiar, and yet utterly strange.
2. Gosses Bluff, Northern Territory, Australia — Gaz’s riveting, stark images make you wonder if you’re actually looking at Earth. In the image above, he turned the sky into a black, alien thing by using a red filter (in front of black and white film) when he shot the 14 mile-wide Gosses Bluff, which formed 142.5 million years ago.

"Aboriginals believe that Gosses Bluff was created by a baby falling to Earth from the sky," Gaz said. "The goddesses were dancing and knocked the baby out of their arms. The more mythology that surrounds these places, the more fascinating they are."
3. Upheaval Dome, Utah — It’s not surprising that the origins of some craters are the subject of decades-long controversy. The terrific heat and energy of an impact often vaporize large asteroids made of nearly solid iron and nickel.

Such is the case at Upheaval Dome, shown above. Scientists have gone back and forth over whether the pummeled, uplifted rocks were abused by a salt dome that rose from below, or cosmic artillery from above. In 2008, researchers discovered the presence of shocked quartz (stishovite, or its close cousin coesite) in the dome, confirming its extraterrestrial origins.
5. Henbury, Northern Territory, Australia -- "A lot of my work is about mortality," Gaz said. "By doing it in black and white, you get a sense of beginning and end together, positive and negative."

Nothing could be more appropriate for Henbury, shown above. In a turn of tragic cosmic irony, the great crater hunter and legendary scientist Shoemaker -- the one who put Meteor Crater on the map -- died in a head-on collision with another car while driving outside Alice Springs, Australia in 1997, not far from Henbury.
Sprayed like a shotgun blast across the plains, it's a mute testament to the many strange forms cosmic collisions can take. Just 5,000 years old, these 13 craters range in size from 33 feet to 525 feet in diameter -- tiny compared to others, but more than enough to leave a lasting impression.

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