• 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.
    • 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.