• The importance of being cratered: The new role of meteorite impact as a normal geological process

      French, B. M. (The Meteoritical Society, 2004-01-01)
      This paper is a personal (and, in many ways, incomplete) view of the past development of impact geology and of the newly recognized importance of impact events in terrestrial geological history. It also identifies some exciting scientific challenges for future investigators: to determine the full range of impact effects preserved on the Earth, to apply the knowledge obtained from impact phenomena to more general geological problems, and to continue the merger of the once exotic field of impact geology with mainstream geosciences. Since the recognition of an impact event at the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary, much current activity in impact geology has been promoted by traditionally trained geoscientists who have unexpectedly encountered impact effects in the course of their work. Their studies have involved: 1) the recognition of additional major impact effects in the geological record (the Chesapeake Bay crater, the Alamo breccia, and multiple layers of impact spherules in Precambrian rocks); and 2) the use of impact structures as laboratories to study general geological processes (e.g., igneous petrogenesis at Sudbury, Canada and Archean crustal evolution at Vredefort, South Africa). Other research areas, in which impact studies could contribute to major geoscience problems in the future, include: 1) comparative studies between low-level (less than or equal to 7 GPa) shock deformation of quartz, and the production of quartz cleavage, in both impact and tectonic environments; and 2) the nature, origin, and significance of bulk organic carbon (kerogen) and other carbon species in some impact structures (Gardnos, Norway, and Sudbury, Canada).
    • 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.
    • Modeling damage and deformation in impact simulations

      Collins, G. S.; Melosh, H. J.; Ivanov, B. A. (The Meteoritical Society, 2004-01-01)
      Numerical modeling is a powerful tool for investigating the formation of large impact craters but is one that must be validated with observational evidence. Quantitative analysis of damage and deformation in the target surrounding an impact event provides a promising means of validation for numerical models of terrestrial impact craters, particularly in cases where the final pristine crater morphology is ambiguous or unknown. In this paper, we discuss the aspects of the behavior of brittle materials important for the accurate simulation of damage and deformation surrounding an impact event and the care required to interpret the results. We demonstrate this with an example simulation of an impact into a terrestrial, granite target that produces a 10 km-diameter transient crater. The results of the simulation are shown in terms of damage (a scalar quantity that reflects the totality of fragmentation) and plastic strain, both total plastic strain (the accumulated amount of permanent shear deformation, regardless of the sense of shear) and net plastic strain (the amount of permanent shear deformation where the sense of shear is accounted for). Damage and plastic strain are both greatest close to the impact site and decline with radial distance. However, the reversal in flow patterns from the downward and outward excavation flow to the inward and upward collapse flow implies that net plastic strains may be significantly lower than total plastic strains. Plastic strain in brittle rocks is very heterogeneous; however, continuum modeling requires that the deformation of the target during an impact event be described in terms of an average strain that applies over a large volume of rock (large compared to the spacing between individual zones of sliding). This paper demonstrates that model predictions of smooth average strain are entirely consistent with an actual strain concentrated along very narrow zones. Furthermore, we suggest that model predictions of total accumulated strain should correlate with observable variations in bulk density and seismic velocity.
    • Dynamic tensile strength of terrestrial rocks and application to impact cratering

      Ai, H.-A.; Ahrens, T. J. (The Meteoritical Society, 2004-01-01)
      Dynamic tensile strengths and fracture strengths of 3 terrestrial rocks, San Marcos gabbro, Coconino sandstone, and Sesia eclogite were determined by carrying out flat-plate (PMMA and aluminum) impact experiments on disc-shaped samples in the 5 to 60 m/sec range. Tensile stresses of 125 to 300 MPa and 245 to 580 MPa were induced for gabbro and eclogite, respectively (with duration time of ~1 smicroseonds. For sandstone (porosity 25%), tensile stresses normal to bedding of ~13 to 55 MPa were induced (with duration times of 2.4 and ~1.4 microseconds). Tensile crack failure was detected by the onset of shock-induced (damage) P and S wave velocity reduction. The dynamic tensile strength of gabbro determined from P and S wave velocity deficits agrees closely with the value of previously determined values by post-impact microscopic examination (~150 MPa). Tensile strength of Coconino sandstone is 20 MPa for a 14 microseconds duration time and 17 MPa for a 2.4 microseconds duration time. For Sesia eclogite, the dynamic tensile strength is ~240 MPa. The fracture strength for gabbro is ~250 MPa, ~500 MPa for eclogite, and ~40 MPa for sandstone. Relative crack induced reduction of S wave velocities is less than that of post-impact P wave velocity reductions for both gabbro and eclogite, indicating that the cracks were predominantly spall cracks. Impacts upon planetary surfaces induce tensile failure within shock-processed rocks beneath the resulting craters. The depth of cracking beneath impact craters can be determined both by seismic refraction methods for rocks of varying water saturation and, for dry conditions (e.g., the Moon), from gravity anomalies. In principle, depth of cracking is related to the equations-of-state of projectile and target, projectile dimension, and impact velocity. We constructed a crack-depth model applicable to Meteor Crater. For the observed 850 m depth of cracking, our preferred strength scaling model yields an impact velocity of 33 km/s and impactor radius of 9 m for an iron projectile.
    • Structural evidence from shock metamorphism in simple and complex impact craters: Linking observations to theory

      Dence, M. R. (The Meteoritical Society, 2004-01-01)
      The structure of Canadian impact craters formed in crystalline rocks is analyzed using shock metamorphism and evidence for movement along shear zones. The analysis is based on an interpretation that, beyond the near field region, shock pressure attenuates down axis as P ~ R^(-2), in agreement with nuclear test and computed results, and as P ~ R^(-3) near the surface. In both simple and complex craters, the transient cavity is defined by the limit of fragmentation due to direct and reflected shock waves. The intersection of the transient cavity with hemispheric shock isobars indicates that the transient cavity has a parabolic form. Weakening by dilation during early uplift allows late stage slumping of the walls of simple craters. This is controlled by a spheroidal primary shear of radius rs is approximately equal to 2dt, where dt is the depth of the transient crater due to excavation and initial compression. With increasing crater diameter, the size of the transient cavity decreases relative to the shock imprint, suggesting that fragmentation and excavation is limited by progressively earlier collapse of the margins under gravity. Central peak formation in complex craters may be initiated by relaxation of the shock-compressed central parautochthone, so the primary shear, lubricated by friction melting, meets below the crater floor and drives the continuing upward motion.
    • Early fracturing and impact residue emplacement: Can modelling help to predict their location in major craters?

      Kearsley, A.; Graham, G.; McDonnell, T.; Bland, P.; Hough, R.; Helps, P. (The Meteoritical Society, 2004-01-01)
      Understanding the nature and composition of larger extraterrestrial bodies that may collide with the Earth is important. One source of information lies in the record of ancient impact craters, some of which have yielded chemical information as to the impacting body. Many deeply eroded craters have no remaining melt sheet or ejecta yet may contain impactor residue within basement fractures. The emplacement mechanism for fractionated siderophile residues is likely to be gaseous, although, melt droplets and some solid materials may survive. For breccia- and melt-filled fractures to contain extraterrestrial material, they must form very early in the impact process. Most current numerical models do not dwell on the formation and location of early major fractures, although, fractures in and around small craters on brittle glass exposed to hypervelocity impact in low Earth orbit have been successfully simulated. Modelling of fracture development associated with larger craters may help locate impact residues and test the models themselves.
    • Tectonic influences on the morphometry of the Sudbury impact structure: Implications for terrestrial cratering and modeling

      Spray, J. G.; Butler, H. R.; Thompson, L. M. (The Meteoritical Society, 2004-01-01)
      Impact structures developed on active terrestrial planets (Earth and Venus) are susceptible to pre-impact tectonic influences on their formation. This means that we cannot expect them to conform to ideal cratering models, which are commonly based on the response of a homogeneous target devoid of pre-existing flaws. In the case of the 1.85 Ga Sudbury impact structure of Ontario, Canada, considerable influence has been exerted on modification stage processes by late Archean to early Proterozoic basement faults. Two trends are dominant: 1) the NNW-striking Onaping Fault System, which is parallel to the 2.47 Ga Matachewan dyke swarm, and 2) the ENE-striking Murray Fault System, which acted as a major Paleoproterozoic suture zone that contributed to the development of the Huronian sedimentary basin between 2.45-2.2 Ga. Sudbury has also been affected by syn- to post-impact regional deformation and metamorphism: the 1.9-1.8 Ga Penokean orogeny, which involved NNW-directed reverse faulting, uplift, and transpression at mainly greenschist facies grade, and the 1.16-0.99 Ga Grenville orogeny, which overprinted the SE sector of the impact structure to yield a polydeformed upper amphibolite facies terrain. The pre-, syn-, and post-impact tectonics of the region have rendered the Sudbury structure a complicated feature. Careful reconstruction is required before its original morphometry can be established. This is likely to be true for many impact structures developed on active terrestrial planets. Based on extensive field work, combined with remote sensing and geophysical data, four ring systems have been identified at Sudbury. The inner three rings broadly correlate with pseudotachylyte (friction melt) -rich fault systems. The first ring has a diameter of ~90 km and defines what is interpreted to be the remains of the central uplift. The second ring delimits the collapsed transient cavity diameter at ~130 km and broadly corresponds to the original melt sheet diameter. The third ring has a diameter of ~180 km. The fourth ring defines the suggested apparent crater diameter at ~260 km. This approximates the final rim diameter, given that erosion in the North Range is 6 km and the ring faults are steeply dipping. Impact damage beyond Ring 4 may occur, but has not yet been identified in the field. One or more rings within the central uplift (Ring 1) may also exist. This form and concentric structure indicates that Sudbury is a peak ring or, more probably, a multi-ring basin. These parameters provide the foundation for modeling the formation of thisrelatively large terrestrial impact structure.
    • Experimental ejection angles for oblique impacts: Implications for the subsurface flow-field

      Anderson, J. L. B.; Schultz, P. H.; Heineck, J. T. (The Meteoritical Society, 2004-01-01)
      A simple analytical solution for subsurface particle motions during impact cratering is useful for tracking the evolution of the transient crater shape at late times. A specific example of such an analytical solution is Maxwells Z-Model, which is based on a point-source assumption. Here, the parameters for this model are constrained using measured ejection angles from both vertical and oblique experimental impacts at the NASA Ames Vertical Gun Range. Data from experiments reveal that impacts at angles as high as 45 degrees to the targets surface generate subsurface flow-fields that are significantly different from those created by vertical impacts. The initial momentum of the projectile induces a subsurface momentum-driven flow-field that evolves in three dimensions of space and in time to an excavation flow-field during both vertical and oblique impacts. A single, stationary pointsource model (specifically Maxwells Z-Model), however, is found inadequate to explain this detailed evolution of the subsurface flow-field during oblique impacts. Because 45 degrees is the most likely impact angle on planetary surfaces, a new analytical model based on a migrating point-source could prove quite useful. Such a model must address the effects of the subsurface flow-field evolution on crater excavation, ejecta deposition, and transient crater morphometry.
    • Mass-velocity distributions of fragments in oblique impact cratering on gypsum

      Onose, N.; Fujiwara, K. (The Meteoritical Society, 2004-01-01)
      Oblique impact cratering experiments into gypsum targets were performed, and masses and velocities of the fragments were measured within the observational limit of 0.1-100 m/s in velocity and 0.0003-1 g in mass. The fragments observed were divided in two groups according to ejection time: early fragments ejected conically within a few msec after the impact followed by late fragments consisting of hundreds of slow, small fragments ejected almost perpendicular to the target. The relationship between mass and velocity of early fragments was observed to follow a power law with an exponent of -0.11 +/- 0.06, consistent with previous studies (e.g., Nakamura and Fujiwara 1991; Giblin et al. 1998). The cumulative number of fragments heavier or equal to a given mass versus fragment mass distributions shows a power law exponent of -1.49 +/- 0.09 for late fragments and steeper than -0.49 +/- 0.18 for early fragments. More than 10% of the mass was ejected from the crater with ejection speed slower than 2 m/s. Those fragments will reaccumulate on porous (<1500 kg/m^3) and small (<4 km in diameter) asteroids.
    • Marine-target craters on Mars? An assessment study

      Ormö, J.; Dohm, J. M.; Ferris, J. C.; Lepinette, A.; Fairén, A. G. (The Meteoritical Society, 2004-01-01)
      Observations of impact craters on Earth show that a water column at the target strongly influences lithology and morphology of the resultant crater. The degree of influence varies with the target water depth and impactor diameter. Morphological features detectable in satellite imagery include a concentric shape with an inner crater inset within a shallower outer crater, which is cut by gullies excavated by the resurge of water. In this study, we show that if oceans, large seas, and lakes existed on Mars for periods of time, marine-target craters must have formed. We make an assessment of the minimum and maximum amounts of such craters based on published data on water depths, extent, and duration of putative oceans within contacts "1 and 2," cratering rate during the different oceanic phases, and computer modeling of minimum impactor diameters required to form longlasting craters in the seafloor of the oceans. We also discuss the influence of erosion and sedimentation on the preservation and exposure of the craters. For an ocean within the smaller "contact 2" with a duration of 100,000 yr and the low present crater formation rate, only ~12 detectable marine-target craters would have formed. In a maximum estimate with a duration of 0.8 Gyr, as many as 1400 craters may have formed. An ocean within the larger "contact 1-Meridiani," with a duration of 100,000 yr, would not have received any seafloor craters despite the higher crater formation rate estimated before 3.5 Gyr. On the other hand, with a maximum duration of 0.8 Gyr, about 160 seafloor craters may have formed. However, terrestrial examples show that most marinetarget craters may be covered by thick sediments. Ground penetrating radar surveys planned for the ESA Mars Express and NASA 2005 missions may reveal buried craters, though it is uncertain if the resolution will allow the detection of diagnostic features of marine-target craters. The implications regarding the discovery of marine-target craters on Mars is not without significance, as such discoveries would help address the ongoing debate of whether large water bodies occupied the northern plains of Mars and would help constrain future paleoclimatic reconstructions.