Luther College hosts presentation about the discovery of the Decorah meteor impact crater

April 11, 2022

It was recently discovered that Luther College and the city of Decorah are positioned above a buried impact crater from a meteorite strike 470 million years ago. Retired Iowa Geological Survey geologists H. Paul Liu and Robert McKay, who led the research, will share the story of the crater’s discovery and the unique fossil life forms that were preserved in the crater’s basin. The event will take place at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 20, in Room 206 of Valders Hall of Science. It is open to the public with no charge for admission.

“Many people know that, as part of the Driftless Region, Decorah’s landscape and surface geology are distinctive,” said Laura Peterson, associate professor of environmental studies and chemistry. “Now we have an additional geologic claim to fame, with the much more ancient meteor crater that lies beneath the surface here.”

The Decorah Impact Structure, as the Decorah crater is formally known, is one of fewer than 200 recognized impact craters on the Earth’s surface. Liu and McKay will explain the observations that led to the recognition of the three-and-a-half-mile-wide crater and discuss how the exceptional fossils discovered in the crater basin have added to the understanding of the history of life.

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