New paper: Impact melt- and projectile-bearing ejecta at Barringer Crater, Arizona

Posted by on Nov 4, 2015 in Research | No Comments

Our new paper on “Impact melt- and projectile-bearing ejecta at Barringer Crater, Arizona” has been published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters. In this paper we describe evidence of projectile-bearing impact breccias in the ejecta blanket of Barringer Crater for the first time. We also provide evidence for the melting of carbonates during the Barringer impact event. The abstract is below:

Our understanding of the impact cratering process continues to evolve and, even at well-known and well studied structures, there is still much to be learned. Here, we present the results of a study on impact generated melt phases within ejecta at Barringer Crater, Arizona, one of the first impact craters on Earth to be recognized and arguably the most famous. We report on previously unknown impact melt-bearing breccias that contain dispersed fragments of the projectile as well as impact glasses that contain a high proportion of projectile material – higher than any other glasses previously reported from this site. These glasses are distinctly different from so-called “melt beads” that are found as a lag deposit on the present day erosion surface and that we also study. It is proposed that the melts in these impact breccias were derived from a more constrained sub-region of the melt zone that was very shallow and that also had a larger projectile contribution. In addition to low- and high-Fe melt beads documented previously, we document Ca–Mg-rich glasses and calcite globules within silicate glass that provide definitive evidence that carbonates underwent melting during the formation of Barringer Crater. We propose that the melting of dolomite produces Ca–Mg-rich melts from which calcite is the dominant liquidus phase. This explains the perhaps surprising finding that despite dolomite being the dominant rock type at many impact sites, including Barringer Crater, calcite is the dominant melt product. When taken together with our estimate for the amount of impact melt products dispersed on, and just below, the present-day erosional surface, it is clear that the amount of melt produced at Barringer Crater is higher than previously estimated and is more consistent with recent numerical modeling studies. This work adds to the growing recognition that sedimentary rocks melt during hypervelocity impact and do not just decompose and/or devolatilize as was previously thought. This has implications for understanding the processes and products of impacts into sedimentary rocks and for estimating the amount of climatically active gases released by impact events.