The scientific tourist #6 — nothing but rim!

This week’s “sciencey” tourism picture comes from Nördlingen in Bavaria, Germany:

Nördlingen panorama

Nördlingen is an attractive little medieval town, one of just three fully-walled towns left in Germany — but it holds a more prominent place in the history of geology. Gene Shoemaker’s studies of its surroundings helped establish meteorite impact as an important player in relatively recent solar system history.

You see, Nördlingen lies within the Ries impact crater. This crater is 23 – 24 km in diameter, and was created by the impact of a 1 km asteroid about 14.4 million years ago. The resulting crater has two concentric rings, with the town being built on one edge of the inner ring. Many of the town’s buildings are built from a local type of stone called Suevite — which is actually bedrock that was partially melted by the impact and re-solidified, then millions of years later quarried from one of the rings.

But of course, if you’ve been listening to the podcast, you heard all about this in the latest episode

Today’s partial panorama was taken from the steeple (90 meters tall!) of the town’s St. Georg’s church. This church is where Gene Shoemaker discovered that the local building stone contained grains of shocked quartz, indicative of a high-energy impact. In the above image, the horizon is formed by part of the outer ring of the Ries crater. As usual, click on the above picture to get to the Flickr version of the image — it’ll give you lots of options for resizing and otherwise manipulating the source photo.

Meanwhile, here’s a sampling of a mineralogical map of the area (click on this for the full thing, with legend in German):


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