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Vredefort Dome - World Heritage Site

Free State, South Africa
World Heritage 

Vredefort Dome, approximately 120km south-west of Johannesburg, is part of a larger meteorite impact structure, or astrobleme. Dating back 2,023 million years, it is the oldest astrobleme found on earth so far. With a radius of 190km, it is also the largest and the most deeply eroded. Vredefort Dome shows the world’s greatest known single energy release event, which caused major global change, possibly including major evolutionary changes. Despite the importance of such sites, geological activity on the earth’s surface has led to the disappearance of evidence from most impact sites, and Vredefort is the only example on earth to provide a full geological profile of an astrobleme below the crater floor.

The meteorite impact that happened in the Free State made a crater that was about 300km wide (from Johannesburg to Welkom!). This is the biggest meteorite impact that geologists have yet found on earth and it is nearly twice as big as the impact that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. This makes it a site of great importance for scientists. It is also the oldest impact crater that has been found on earth. It is mainly for these reasons that it has been made a World Heritage Site. Over many decades, geologists from South Africa and other parts of the world have been studying the broken and melted rocks around Parys and Vredefort to understand this Vredefort Impact Event.

If we look up into the sky on a dark night we often see “shooting stars”. These are bright streaks of light that move very fast across the sky for only a few seconds before they disappear. They are not real stars – the streaks of light are caused by tiny pieces of burning rock, flying faster than bullets that enter earth’s atmosphere from outer space. Because they are moving so fast (more than 10km per second, which means they would take 30 seconds to fly from Parys to Bloemfontein), when they enter the atmosphere they start to burn. This burning is caused by friction with the air. When you rub your hands together very fast, they also get hot. To melt rock, though, the temperature must reach more than 1000°C!

Contact Details:

018 297 7618


120km south-west of Johannesburg, near Parys & Vredefort, Free State