8 November 1998

Armageddon Could Be Closer Than You Think

According to investigators Jeffrey Wynn and the late Eugene Shoemaker, the existence of the Wabar impact crater in Saudi Arabia's Empty Quarter is evidence that the fantasy of films such as Armageddon may be more real than we thought.

Eugene Shoemaker who died in late 1997, was the father of astrogeology, the study of extra terrestrial rocks. His last project was carried out in one of the most inhospitable places on the planet, the Empty Quarter of the Saudi Arabian desert. Day time temperatures would frequently rise to 60C and fall to just 40C at night. In the Empty Quarter the crater Wabar was according to local Bedouin tradition the remains of an ancient city destroyed by the wrath of God. In fact the metallic 'statues' and other mineral remains have been identified as the melted detritus of a meteorite impact.

When first discovered, in 1932, the largest of the Wabar craters was 12 metres deep, now sixty six years later the crater is almost buried by the sands. Shoemaker believed that the craters were not formed at some time in ancient history, but in fact were the result of meteor strike just 135 years ago.

This discovery is of considerable importance, as Wynn says 'the date gives us an idea of how often such events occur. Something the size of the Wabar impactor strikes the Earth every decade'. Most of these objects fall harmlessly into the sea, but it is only a matter of time before one lands on a highly populated region of the planet.

Picture courtesy of NASA is Manicouagan impact crater, not Wabar

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