China verifies its first meteor crater in Liaoning

15:45, December 30, 2010      

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The location of Xiuyan meteor crater. (By Guangzhou Daily)

The meteor crater at Xiuyan Man Autonomous County in Anshan City of Liaoning Province.

Xiuyan Man Autonomous County in Anshan City, Liaoning Province, was a sleepy little place near the national border until China's first meteor crater was verified here recently.

A scientific research team led by Chen Ming, a researcher of Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry of Chinese Academy of Sciences, eventually explored and verified China's first meteor crater four years after the team was formed, according to Guangzhou Daily.

After news spread nationwide about the Xiuyan meteor crater, visitors from all over the country gathered at this small place and Xiuyan was suddenly thrust into the spotlight.

Xiuyan meteor crater fills China's blank in this field

A meteor crater is the pit left behind after a meteorite's impact on a planet, and there are generally two kinds of evidence used to verify it. First, the pit is usually shaped in a ring or a bowl and has a layer of gravel in it. Second, it must be proven that the strong impact of a meteor generated some fundamental change to the rock on the earth's surface.

Starting in the 1990s, Chen Ming researched the effects of colliding celestial bodies, and he set out on a quest to find the first domestic meteor crater in 2006.

Before he set out to try to find such a site, Chen chose some places as his initial targets and finally settled on Liaoning Province as the place he would further explore. And after careful probes, Chen and his team excavated Xiuyan for scientific research in March of 2009.

Six months later, Chen and his team discovered the precious coesite under the ground, which provided enough evidence for verifying the place as a meteor crater. Then all the three standards for identifying a meteor crater were discovered. Now, China has its first meteor crater thanks to 30 years of work by two generations of Chinese scientists.

Xiuyan meteor crater is going to become a geological park

Since Barringer Crater, the world's first meteor crater, was discovered near Winslow in the northern Arizona desert of the United States in early 1960s, a total of more than 170 such pits have been found on this planet, but none have been found in China before the Xiuyan Crater.

Regarding the question of what does it really mean to China, Chen Ming said a meteor crater is a kind of very precious natural relic, and it is also a most unique landmark as well as a universal spectacle.

He also added that the discovery of the Xiuyan Meteor Crater's has more significance than the fact it is China's first. It also provides significant material for research on the shaping of the Earth and its evolution as well as great scientific value and tourism. It might even help in probing the moon and outer space, he said.

According to the local government, they have already made a primary plan to develop and construct Xiuyan as a geological park centered on the meteor crater.

File photo: the Barringer Crater, the world's first meteor crater, which is near Winslow in the northern Arizona desert of the United States.

By Wang Hanlu, People's Daily Online
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