First published in Astronomy Magazine


Its four deserts sprawl across the Southwest, each as unique in character as the calliope hummingbird is from the deadly javelina. The Mogollon Rim, an escarpment that plunges 2000-feet to the Tonto Basin, divides the great expanse of the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts in the south from the Painted Desert and Colorado Plateau to the north. Outside Tucson, Saguaro soar 30-feet against a cloudless sky and at night the stars go on forever. Petrified trees which once witnessed the great dinosaurs lay scattered across the parched sand, as silent as the long-dead beasts who wondered among them. The haunting Black Mesa of the Hopi grazes the sky, while a canyon which could only be named “Grand” slashes deep into Earth.

After the dinosaur, but 40,000 years before big game hunters stalked mammoth and bison across its grasslands, an iron-nickel meteor slammed headfirst into what is now Arizona. The crater it formed remains. Geology in the extreme.

Although I’d been vacationing in Northern Arizona for 15 years, my first visit to Meteor Crater wasn’t until 1995. Friend and co-author, David Cortner, was meeting me in Sedona to put the finishing touches on our astronomy book, as well finish up the book’s astrophotos under Arizona’s fine night skies.

When David found out I’d never seen Meteor Crater, he insisted it was NOT to be missed. He’d first seen it as a 13-year-old on summer vacation. “It knocked my socks off,” he said. That did it. The next day we headed for the crater.