• The Dakhleh Glass: Product of an impact airburst or cratering event in the Western Desert of Egypt?

      Osinski, G. R.; Kieniewicz, J.; Smith, J. R.; Boslough, M. B. E.; Eccleston, M.; Schwarcz, H. P.; Kleindienst, M. R.; Haldemann, A. F. C.; Churcher, C. S. (The Meteoritical Society, 2008-01-01)
      Impact cratering is a ubiquitous geological process on the terrestrial planets. Meteorite impact craters are the most visible product of impact events, but there is a growing recognition that large aerial bursts or airbursts should occur relatively frequently throughout geological time. In this contribution, we report on an unusual impact glass--the Dakhleh Glass (DG)--which is distributed over an area of ~400 km^2 of the Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt. This region preserves a rich history of habitation stretching back to over 400,000 years before the emergence of Homo sapiens. We report on observations made during recent fieldwork and subsequent analytical analyses that strengthen previous suggestions that the DG formed during an impact event. The wide distribution and large size of DG specimens (up to ~50 cm across), the chemistry (e.g., CaO and Al2O3 contents up to ~25 and ~18 wt%, respectively), the presence of lechatelierite and burnt sediments, and the inclusion of clasts and spherules in the DG is inconsistent with known terrestrial processes of glass formation. The age and other textural characteristics rule out a human origin. Instead, we draw upon recent numerical modeling of airbursts to suggest that the properties of DG, coupled with the absence of a confirmed crater, can best be explained by melting of surficial sediments as a result of a large airburst event. We suggest that glass produced by such events should, therefore, be more common in the rock record than impact craters, assuming that the glass formed in a suitable preserving environment.
    • Asymmetric signatures in simple craters as an indicator for an oblique impact direction

      Poelchau, M. H.; Kenkmann, T. (The Meteoritical Society, 2008-01-01)
      In oblique impacts with an impact angle under 45 degrees, the bilateral shape of the distal ejecta blanket is used as the strongest indicator for an impact vector. This bilateral symmetry is attenuated and is superimposed by radial symmetry towards the crater rim, which remains circular for impact angles down to 10-15 degrees. The possibility that remnants of bilateral symmetry might still be present in the most proximal ejecta, the overturned flap and the crater rim was explored with the intention of deducing an impact vector. A model is presented that postulates bilateral patterns using proximal ejecta trajectories and predicts these patterns in the orientation of bedding planes in the crater rim. This model was successfully correlated to patterns described by radial grooves in the proximal ejecta blanket of the oblique Tooting crater on Mars. A new method was developed to detect structural asymmetries by converting bedding data into values that express the deviation from concentric strike orientation in the crater rim relative to the crater center, termed "concentric deviation." The method was applied to field data from Wolfe Creek crater, Western Australia. Bedding in the overturned flap implies an impactor striking from the east, which refines earlier publications, while bedding from the inner rim shows a correlation with the crater rim morphology.
    • Constraints on central uplift structure from the Manicouagan impact crater

      Spray, J. G.; Thompson, L. M. (The Meteoritical Society, 2008-01-01)
      Recent drilling operations at the 90 km diameter, late Triassic Manicouagan impact crater of Quebec, Canada, have provided new insight into the internal structure of a complex craters central region. Previous work had indicated that the impact event generated a ~55 km diameter sheet of molten rock of relatively consistent (originally ~400 m) thickness (Floran et al. 1978). The drilling data reveals melt sheet thicknesses of up to ~1500 m, with kilometer-scale lateral and substantial vertical variations in the geometry of the crater floor beneath the melt sheet. The thickest melt section occurs in a 1500 m deep central trough encircled by a horseshoe-shaped uplift of Precambrian basement. The uplift constitutes a modified central peak structure, at least part of which breached the melt sheet. Mineralogical and compositional segregation (differentiation) of the thicker melt sheet section, coupled with a lack of fractionation in the thinner units, shows that the footwall geometry and associated trough structure were in place prior to melt sheet solidification. Marked lateral changes in sub-melt sheet (basement) relief support the existence of a castellated footwall that was created by high-angle, impact-related offsets of 100s to 1000s of meters. This indicates that deformation during the modification stage of the cratering process was primarily facilitated by large-displacement fault systems. This work suggests that Manicouagan is a central peak basin with rings, which does not appear to fit with current complex crater classification schemes.
    • Impact penetration of Europa's ice crust as a mechanism for formation of chaos terrain

      Cox, R.; Ong, L. C. F.; Arakawa, M.; Scheider, K. C. (The Meteoritical Society, 2008-01-01)
      Ice thickness estimates and impactor dynamics indicate that some impacts must breach Europas ice crust; and outcomes of impact experiments using ice-over-water targets range from simple craters to chaos-like destroyed zones, depending on impact energy and ice competence. Firstorder impacts--into thick ice or at low impact energy--produce craters. Second-order impacts punch through the ice, making holes that resemble raft-free chaos areas. Third-order impacts--into thinnest ice or at highest energy--produce large irregular raft-filled zones similar to platy chaos. Other evidence for an impact origin for chaos areas comes from the size-frequency distribution of chaos+craters on Europa, which matches the impact production functions of Ganymede and Callisto; and from small craters around the large chaos area Thera Macula, which decrease in average size and density per unit area as a function of distance from Theras center. There are no tiny chaos areas and no craters 50 km diameter. This suggests that small impactors never penetrate, whereas large ones (berPenetrators: 2.5 km diameter at average impact velocity) always do. Existence of both craters and chaos areas in the size range 2-40 km diameter points to spatial/temporal variation in crust thickness. But in this size range, craters are progressively outnumbered by chaos areas at larger diameters, suggesting that probability of penetration increases with increasing scale of impact. If chaos areas do represent impact sites, then Europas surface is older than previously thought. The recalculated resurfacing age is 480 (-302/+960) Ma: greater than prior estimates, but still very young by solar system standards.
    • Textural constraints on the formation of impact spherules: A case study from the Dales Gorge BIF, Paleoproterozoic Hamersley Group of Western Australia

      Sweeney, D.; Simonson, B. M. (The Meteoritical Society, 2008-01-01)
      Impact ejecta (about 2.5 Gyr old) in the DS4 layer of the Dales Gorge BIF (Hamersley Group, Western Australia) are so well preserved that many original textures such as vesicles and microlites are faithfully preserved. About 65% of the particles in the layer originated as impact ejecta, of which 81% are splash forms. The remaining 19% are angular, but the splash forms and angular particles have the same composition (mainly diagenetic stilpnomelane and K-feldspar) and share a common suite of internal textures. Some particles contain randomly oriented microlites texturally identical to plagioclase in basalts. Most splash forms have rims of inward-growing crystals that may have formed from the melt (perhaps nucleated by impinging dust) or via thermal devitrification. The rims clearly formed in flight because in broken particles (which make up about 13% of the splash forms) they are generally not present on broken surfaces. The origin of the angular particles is uncertain, but they may represent solid ejecta. Given the large sizes and variable shapes of the splash forms, they are probably droplets of impact melt emplaced ballistically. This is largely by analogy to the K-T boundary layer, but DS4 splash forms differ from K-T spherules in important ways suggesting the K-T model is not universal. The occurrence of basaltic ejecta from a large impact highlights its scarcity in the stratigraphic record despite the areal abundance of oceanic crust. The diverse textures formed via in-flight crystallization suggest particle paths in the plume are more complex than is generally appreciated.
    • Mid-sized complex crater formation in mixed crystalline-sedimentary targets: Insight from modeling and observation

      Collins, G. S.; Kenkmann, T.; Osinski, G. R.; Wünnemann, K. (The Meteoritical Society, 2008-01-01)
      Large impact crater formation is an important geologic process that is not fully understood. The current paradigm for impact crater formation is based on models and observations of impacts in homogeneous targets. Real targets are rarely uniform; for example, the majority of Earths surface is covered by sedimentary rocks and/or a water layer. The ubiquity of layering across solar system bodies makes it important to understand the effect target properties have on the cratering process. To advance understanding of the mechanics of crater collapse, and the effect of variations in target properties on crater formation, the first Bridging the Gap workshop recommended that geological observation and numerical modeling focussed on mid-sized (15-30 km diameter) craters on Earth. These are large enough to be complex; small enough to be mapped, surveyed and modelled at high resolution; and numerous enough for the effects of target properties to be potentially disentangled from the effects of other variables. In this paper, we compare observations and numerical models of three 18-26 km diameter craters formed in different target lithology: Ries, Germany; Haughton, Canada; and El'gygytgyn, Russia. Based on the first-order assumption that the impact energy was the same in all three impacts we performed numerical simulations of each crater to construct a simple quantitative model for mid-sized complex crater formation in a subaerial, mixed crystalline-sedimentary target. We compared our results with interpreted geological profiles of Ries and Haughton, based on detailed new and published geological mapping and published geophysical surveys. Our combined observational and numerical modeling work suggests that the major structural differences between each crater can be explained by the difference in thickness of the pre-impact sedimentary cover in each case. We conclude that the presence of an inner ring at Ries, and not at Haughton, is because basement rocks that are stronger than the overlying sediments are sufficiently close to the surface that they are uplifted and overturned during excavation and remain as an uplifted ring after modification and post-impact erosion. For constant impact energy, transient and final crater diameters increase with increasing sediment thickness.
    • Impact crater formation in icy layered terrains on Mars

      Senft, L. E.; Stewart, S. T. (The Meteoritical Society, 2008-01-01)
      We present numerical simulations of crater formation under Martian conditions with a single near-surface icy layer to investigate changes in crater morphology between glacial and interglacial periods. The ice fraction, thickness, and depth to the icy layer are varied to understand the systematic effects on observable crater features. To accurately model impact cratering into ice, a new equation of state table and strength model parameters for H2O are fitted to laboratory data. The presence of an icy layer significantly modifies the cratering mechanics. Observable features demonstrated by the modeling include variations in crater morphometry (depth and rim height) and icy infill of the crater floor during the late stages of crater formation. In addition, an icy layer modifies the velocities, angles, and volumes of ejecta, leading to deviations of ejecta blanket thickness from the predicted power law. The dramatic changes in crater excavation are a result of both the shock impedance and the strength mismatch between layers of icy and rocky materials. Our simulations suggest that many of the unusual features of Martian craters may be explained by the presence of icy layers, including shallow craters with well-preserved ejecta blankets, icy flow related features, some layered ejecta structures, and crater lakes. Therefore, the cratering record implies that near-surface icy layers are widespread on Mars.
    • Laboratory investigations of marine impact events: Factors influencing crater formation and projectile survivability

      Milner, D. J.; Baldwin, E. C.; Burchell, M. J. (The Meteoritical Society, 2008-01-01)
      Given that the Earths surface is covered in around two-thirds water, the majority of impact events should have occurred in marine environments. However, with the presence of a water layer, crater formation may be prohibited. Indeed, formation is greatly controlled by the water depth to projectile diameter ratio, as discussed in this paper. Previous work has shown that the underlying target material also influences crater formation (e.g., Gault and Sonett 1982; Baldwin et al. 2007). In addition to the above parameters we also show the influence of impact angle, impact velocity and projectile density for a variety of water depths on crater formation and projectile survivability. The limiting ratio of water depth to projectile diameter on cratering represents the point at which the projectile is significantly slowed by transit through the water layer to reduce the impact energy to that which prohibits cratering. We therefore study the velocity decay produced by a water layer using laboratory, analytical and numerical modelling techniques, and determine the peak pressures endured by the projectile. For an impact into a water depth five times the projectile diameter, the velocity of the projectile is found to be reduced to 26-32% its original value. For deep water impacts we find that up to 60% of the original mass of the projectile survives in an oblique impact, where survivability is defined as the solid or melted mass fraction of the projectile that could be collected after impact.
    • The effect of target properties on crater morphology: Comparison of central peak craters on the Moon and Ganymede

      Bray, V. J.; Collins, G. S.; Morgan, J. V.; Schenk, P. M. (The Meteoritical Society, 2008-01-01)
      We examine the morphology of central peak craters on the Moon and Ganymede in order to investigate differences in the near-surface properties of these bodies. We have extracted topographic profiles across craters on Ganymede using Galileo images, and use these data to compile scaling trends. Comparisons between lunar and Ganymede craters show that crater depth, wall slope and amount of central uplift are all affected by material properties. We observe no major differences between similar-sized craters in the dark and bright terrain of Ganymede, suggesting that dark terrain does not contain enough silicate material to significantly increase the strength of the surface ice. Below crater diameters of ~12 km, central peak craters on Ganymede and simple craters on the Moon have similar rim heights, indicating comparable amounts of rim collapse. This suggests that the formation of central peaks at smaller crater diameters on Ganymede than the Moon is dominated by enhanced central floor uplift rather than rim collapse. Crater wall slope trends are similar on the Moon and Ganymede, indicating that there is a similar trend in material weakening with increasing crater size, and possibly that the mechanism of weakening during impact is analogous in icy and rocky targets. We have run a suite of numerical models to simulate the formation of central peak craters on Ganymede and the Moon. Our modeling shows that the same styles of strength model can be applied to ice and rock, and that the strength model parameters do not differ significantly between materials.
    • Proceedings of the Workshop, Bridging the Gap II: Effect of Target Properties on the Impact Cratering Process

      Herrick, R.; Osinski, G.; Pierazzo, E. (The Meteoritical Society, 2008-01-01)
    • The effect of target lithology on the products of impact melting

      Osinski, G. R.; Grieve, R. A. F.; Collins, G. S.; Marion, C.; Sylvester, P. (The Meteoritical Society, 2008-01-01)
      Impact cratering is an important geological process on the terrestrial planets and rocky and icy moons of the outer solar system. Impact events generate pressures and temperatures that can melt a substantial volume of the target; however, there remains considerable discussion as to the effect of target lithology on the generation of impact melts. Early studies showed that for impacts into crystalline targets, coherent impact melt rocks or sheets are formed with these rocks often displaying classic igneous structures (e.g., columnar jointing) and textures. For impact structures containing some amount of sedimentary rocks in the target sequence, a wide range of impactgenerated lithologies have been described, although it has generally been suggested that impact melt is either lacking or is volumetrically minor. This is surprising given theoretical constraints, which show that as much melt should be produced during impacts into sedimentary targets. The question then arises: where has all the melt gone? The goal of this synthesis is to explore the effect of target lithology on the products of impact melting. A comparative study of the similarly sized Haughton, Mistastin, and Ries impact structures, suggests that the fundamental processes of impact melting are basically the same in sedimentary and crystalline targets, regardless of target properties. Furthermore, using advanced microbeam analytical techniques, it is apparent that, for the structures under consideration here, a large proportion of the melt is retained within the crater (as crater-fill impactites) for impacts into sedimentary-bearing target rocks. Thus, it is suggested that the basic products are genetically equivalent but they just appear different. That is, it is the textural, chemical and physical properties of the products that vary.
    • Validation of numerical codes for impact and explosion cratering: Impacts on strengthless and metal targets

      Pierazzo, E.; Artemieva, N.; Asphaug, E.; Baldwin, E. C.; Cazamias, J.; Coker, R.; Collins, G. S.; Crawford, D. A.; Davison, T.; Elbeshausen, D.; et al. (The Meteoritical Society, 2008-01-01)
      Over the last few decades, rapid improvement of computer capabilities has allowed impact cratering to be modeled with increasing complexity and realism, and has paved the way for a new era of numerical modeling of the impact process, including full, three-dimensional (3D) simulations. When properly benchmarked and validated against observation, computer models offer a powerful tool for understanding the mechanics of impact crater formation. This work presents results from the first phase of a project to benchmark and validate shock codes. A variety of 2D and 3D codes were used in this study, from commercial products like AUTODYN, to codes developed within the scientific community like SOVA, SPH, ZEUS-MP, iSALE, and codes developed at U.S. National Laboratories like CTH, SAGE/RAGE, and ALE3D. Benchmark calculations of shock wave propagation in aluminum-on-aluminum impacts were performed to examine the agreement between codes for simple idealized problems. The benchmark simulations show that variability in code results is to be expected due to differences in the underlying solution algorithm of each code, artificial stability parameters, spatial and temporal resolution, and material models. Overall, the inter-code variability in peak shock pressure as a function of distance is around 10 to 20%. In general, if the impactor is resolved by at least 20 cells across its radius, the underestimation of peak shock pressure due to spatial resolution is less than 10%. In addition to the benchmark tests, three validation tests were performed to examine the ability of the codes to reproduce the time evolution of crater radius and depth observed in vertical laboratory impacts in water and two well-characterized aluminum alloys. Results from these calculations are in good agreement with experiments. There appears to be a general tendency of shock physics codes to underestimate the radius of the forming crater. Overall, the discrepancy between the model and experiment results is between 10 and 20%, similar to the inter-code variability.