Roter Kamm crater

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Roter Kamm crater, Namibia
Roter Kamm crater / Landsat 7, USGS / NASA, public domain
The Roter Kamm crater (from German – "red ridge" crater) in the desolate sands of Namib Desert was created by a meteorite some 5 million years ago.

History

This crater is located in Sperrgebiet – restricted area of Namibia reserved for diamond mining. Geologists noticed this structure in the 1960s, and meteoritic origin was proposed already in 1965 (1). Few people entered this remote part of Namib Desert – only in 1986 and 1987 further research took place and impact origin of Roter Kamm crater was confirmed.

Researchers in the 1990s proposed that this meteorite fell approximately 3.7 million years ago. More recent research from 2008 shows different results (2) – laser argon dating shows that the impact took place some 4 – 5 million years ago, in Pliocene.

Roter Kamm crater in space radar image. The faint blue area around the crater might show the ejected rocks from the crater, now covered with sand, Namibia
Roter Kamm crater in space radar image. The faint blue area around the crater might show the ejected rocks from the crater, now covered with sand / Spaceborne Imaging Radar- C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SIR-C/X-SAR), Endeavour, 1994, public domain

Geology

Diameter of this crater is 2.5 km and depth (height difference between the highest part of its rim and deepest part of central part) – 130 m.
Rims of crater rise some 40 – 90 m above the surrounding plain but the interior is located some 50 m below the surrounding plain.

It is estimated that crater is filled with at least 100 m thick layer of sand. Only in some sectors in the ridges is exposed bedrock. Roter Kamm crater is degraded but nevertheless it is one of the best visible impact craters in Earth.

Roter Kamm crater, oblique model based on landsat image. Vertical elevation exaggerated two times, Namibia
Roter Kamm crater, oblique model based on landsat image. Vertical elevation exaggerated two times / NASA World Wind, 2007, public domain

Meteorite here hit very old (Precambrian, 1.2 billion years) granitic gneiss – Namaqua Metamorphic Complex with some younger sedimentary rocks. There have been found no pieces of meteorite – most likely it has evaporated totally during the impact. Melted rocks contain traces of this chondritic meteorite.

Most ejecta is found to the northwest – west from the crater. This and the oblong shape of crater suggest that meteorite was falling from south-east.

Roter Kamm crater is included in the following list:

10 most impressive impact craters of the world
10 most impressive impact craters of the world

References

  1. Dietz R. S., 1965. Roter Kamm, Southwest Africa – probable meteorite crater: Meteoritics, v.2.no.4.p.311 – 314.
  2. Lutz Hecht, Wolf Uwe Reimold, Sarah Sherlock, Roald Tagle, Christian Koeberl, Ralf-Thomas Schmitt. New impact-melt rock from the Roter Kamm impact structure, Namibia: Further constraints on impact age, melt rock chemistry, and projectile composition. Meteoritics & Planetary Science. Volume 43, Issue 7, pages 1201–1218, July 2008.

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Roter Kamm crater -27.765508, 16.289548 Roter Kamm crater
Coordinates: 27.7655 S 16.2895 E
Categories: Impact craters
Values: Geology
Rating: 4
Address: Africa, Namibia, Karas region, in the Namib Desert some 80 km north from Oranjemund
Diameter: 2500 m
Depth: 130 m
Age: ˜ 4 – 5 million years

Landmarks of Namibia

The mysterious fairy rings of Namibia
The mysterious fairy rings of Namibia / Thorsten Becker, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0 Germany.

Few countries in the world have such visually stunning landmarks as Namibia – it is no wonder that the landscape of Namibia has been used to depict life on other planets.

Here are found several unique landmarks without analogues – such as the largest piece of natural iron in the world (Hoba meteorite), the largest underground lake, 50 m long crystals and some others.

Impact craters

Pingualuit crater, Canada
Pingualuit crater / NASA, Wikimedia Commons, public domain
There are many pieces of solid matter flying around in the space. And VERY frequently they fall on the surface of Earth. There are estimates that every year on Earth fall 18,000 – 84,000 meteorites larger than 10 grams: e.g. one meteorite every 6 – 30 minutes.

This category includes outstanding impact craters – detectable scars on the surface of Earth left by a body coming from outer space. Category includes also meteorites – natural objects from the outer space.

Recommended books

Geological Wonders of Namibia


A beautiful depiction (with explanations) of geology in Namibia, from impact crater sites, meteorites, canyons and limestone caves to vast desert landscapes, moonscapes and bizarrely-shaped rocks, this picture-driven book will feature all the highlights of Namibian landscapes and landforms, with accessible brief explanations of the geology behind each of these.

This is Namibia


Namibia is a vast and mostly desolate country found on the west coast of southern Africa. Bisected by the Tropic of Capricorn, the country is bounded in the west by the icy Atlantic Ocean and in the east by the Kalahari Desert that stretches all the way into neighboring Botswana. Its remaining frontiers are drawn by rivers: the Kunene in the north, the Okavango in the northeast and the Orange in the parched south.

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