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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Ohio's Serpent Mound may cover meteor crash

This strikes close to the old home, so to speak. The Plain Dealer reports on an astonishing discovery:

Sifting through rocks snagged from twin boreholes punched deep into the planet's crust, scientists have detected an unearthly substance hidden for eons in Ohio's basement.

And its presence 1,412 feet beneath the forests and farmlands near Serpent Mound in south-central Ohio -- already on par with Britain's Stonehenge and Egypt's pyramids as one of Earth's most mysterious manmade structures -- adds to a puzzle shrouded in legend and lore for centuries.

When scientists peered into the geo-strata that emerged from beneath the mound, they were confronted with pure, weird data. Under their microscope, they saw quartz crystals with flaws like those found at nuclear test sites and in moon rocks brought back by astronauts.

It pointed toward a massive energy burst that left behind telltale traces of a cosmic crash.

Now, those findings are rattling through the world of geology, shaking up long-held conceptions and misconceptions about Ohio's distant past.

"I think we can say with authority today that this is an impact from a meteorite," said Mark T. Baranoski, a state geologist. "It affected the region in a spectacular way."

Rock samples from beneath the mound contain significantly higher than normal concentrations of iridium, an extremely rare metal. Because it is so heavy, iridium seldom shows up anywhere but near the planet's molten core.

At Serpent Mound, the levels measured were 10 times beyond what is usually present in the Earth's crust.

Serpent Mound State Memorial is well worth visiting if in southern Ohio. It attracts many of the same types of visitors drawn to Stonehenge. The head of the serpent is aligned with the summer solstice at sunset and the coils point to the winter solstice sunrise. The Moundbuilder Indians are believed to also have built Serpent Mound about 1,000 years ago. The truth, however, is no one knows for certain. The world is a mysterious place.


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