• Observations at terrestrial impact structures: Their utility in constraining crater formation

      Grieve, R. A. F.; Therriault, A. M. (The Meteoritical Society, 2004-01-01)
      Hypervelocity impact involves the near instantaneous transfer of considerable energy from the impactor to a spatially limited near-surface volume of the target body. Local geology of the target area tends to be of secondary importance, and the net result is that impacts of similar size on a given planetary body produce similar results. This is the essence of the utility of observations at impact craters, particularly terrestrial craters, in constraining impact processes. Unfortunately, there are few well-documented results from systematic contemporaneous campaigns to characterize specific terrestrial impact structures with the full spectrum of geoscientific tools available at the time. Nevertheless, observations of the terrestrial impact record have contributed substantially to fundamental properties of impact. There is a beginning of convergence and mutual testing of observations at terrestrial impact structures and the results of modeling, in particular from recent hydrocode models. The terrestrial impact record provides few constraints on models of ejecta processes beyond a confirmation of the involvement of the local substrate in ejecta lithologies and shows that Z-models are, at best, first order approximations. Observational evidence to date suggests that the formation of interior rings is an extension of the structural uplift process that occurs at smaller complex impact structures. There are, however, major observational gaps and cases, e.g., Vredefort, where current observations and hydrocode models are apparently inconsistent. It is, perhaps, time that the impact community as a whole considers documenting the existing observational and modeling knowledge gaps that are required to be filled to make the intellectual breakthroughs equivalent to those of the 1970s and 1980s, which were fueled by observations at terrestrial impact structures. Filling these knowledge gaps would likely be centered on the later stages of formation of complex and ring structures and on ejecta.