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Friday, 17 July 2009

The Vredefort Crater - South Africa

The Vredefort crater, also known as the Vredefort dome or the Vredefort impact Structure is a circular remnant of an impact caused by an object whose diameter was approximately 10km, which struck earth about 2 billion years ago. This amazing crater is situated in the Free State Province of South Africa, approximately 100km southwest of Johannesburg. It was named after the town of Vredefort, which is located near its center.

The world has about 130 crater structures of probable impact origin in which the Vredefort crater is among the top three. It is currently regarded as one of the largest and oldest known crater on earth. The original crater, which has now eroded away and is no longer clearly visible, was estimated to be about 250 to 300 kilometers in diameter. Vredefort´s original impact scar consists of three concentric circles of uplifted rock. They were formed by the rebound of rock below the impact site when the asteroid hit.

Initially, it was thought that the dome situated in the center of the crater was created by a volcanic explosion, but in the mid of 1990´s it was confirmed that the site was of a huge impact. Revealing shatter cones are often discovered in the bed of the close by Vaal River.

The inner circle with the measurement of 180km, can still be seen in the astonishing range of hills near Parys and Vredefort. In July 2005, this area was voted as South Africa´s seventh World Heritage site at UNESCO´s 29th World Heritage Committee meeting in Durban. South Africa´s other six World Heritage sites are Robben Island, the Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park, the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape, the Cradle of Humankind, the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park and the Cape Floral Region.

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