How Did The Rocks Get So Red At The Vermilion Cliffs In Arizona?

First Posted: Jun 16, 2017 04:40 AM EDT

The red-colored rocks of the Grand Canyon's Vermilion Cliffs in Arizona are so red that it makes them so spectacular and astonishingly magnificent. One could wonder how the rocks get so red. So, why is it so?

Scientists come up with the answer that the red-colored rocks come from the iron that mixes with other elements to form minerals famous for their red, rusty color. This iron is derived from the ancient supernova phenomenon, in which the collapse of massive stars died and ejected a huge amount of new energy. This resulted in generating heavier elements such as iron.

There are five steps in the Grand Staircase of the Colorado Plateau, in northern Arizona and southern Utah and the Vermilion Cliffs are the second steps. About 112,500 acres of the area are allocated as the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness in 1984. In 2000, they protected a bigger area within Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. The cliffs composed of deposited silt and desert tunes and cemented by infiltrated carbonates. They are colored by red iron oxide mixed with other minerals such as bluish manganese.

Jessica Kapp, a senior lecturer and associate department head of the geosciences department at the University of Arizona, told Live Science that after the collapsing star explodes outward in the supernova event, it sent elements into space. She further said that when the Earth was first shaped, it collected these elements from the space including iron.

Also, in early history, there was also an oxidation reaction, in which the metal reacts with the oxygen in the air and becomes rust. She also said that in rocks, there are little grains of minerals such as hematite and magnetite that have iron in them. These minerals became oxidized and rusted and turned the rocks red.

These minerals led to the creation of banded iron formations, which were iron deposits in the world. These banded iron formations could be seen in Lake Superior, Canada, Carajas, Brazil, regions in Northern China, Hamersley Basin in Western Australia and Mesabi Iron Range in Minnesota.

Meanwhile, in Vermilion Cliffs, the red color originates from the iron-rich minerals that merged with the sedimentary rock. Kapp said that the red stones are very common in the western United States. 

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