Browsing Meteoritics & Planetary Science, Volume 43, Number 12 (2008) by Subjects
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Mid-sized complex crater formation in mixed crystalline-sedimentary targets: Insight from modeling and observationLarge 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.