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Diagnostic Clast-Texture Criteria for Recognition of Impact DepositsIt is difficult to find definitive evidence for impact in the geological record because there are many endogenous geological processes that can produce diamictites similar to those generated by impact ejecta. The classic impact criteria of shock fabrics in certain minerals, and iridium layers, for example, may be either difficult to find, or long-since erased from the impact site (shock fabrics also anneal with time). It is important to be able to recognize impact-generated materials in order to understand earth's crustal development and biological evolution. In future exploration of Mars and other solar-system bodies, recognition of impact materials will be important for elucidating planetary evolution, planetary volatile inventories, and exobiological issues. The cobble depicted is typical of many that have been found in diamictite deposits in Belize generated by the Chicxulub K-T impact event. The pebbles are roughly-hewn in general shape with smoothed corners and edges. Surfaces are almost uniformly frosted (on both protuberances and hollows), but some asperities are glazed. Optical microscopy and thin-section petrographic microscopy reveal the frosting to be only a few microns thick, with a well-defined granular structure; grains are the same size as those composing the bulk of the limestone, but their clearer appearance may represent annealing. One or two adjacent pebble faces are often decorated with striated gouges and closely-spaced hemispherical depressions representing indentation hollows produced by well-rounded impacting clasts of up to 0.5 cm in diameter. Some of the impactors are still embedded in the cobble surface. Non-destructive x-ray diffraction techniques showed the impactors to be of the same mineralogy as the target cobble. We believe this unusual glazing and frosting to be related to the impact event, but this must be reconciled with its survival for over 60 my. since it is composed of one of the most alterable substances, CaCO3. We focus, however, on the non-fractured rounded pebbles that appear to have impacted the larger cobble as a swarm of clasts, probably encountered during ballistic flight. It cannot be defined whether the cobble swept through the pebble cloud, or the pebbles rained upon a slowermoving cobble. Two interesting questions arise: (1) Where did large numbers of such well rounded pebbles come from in the ejecta curtain?, and (2) How did they embed themselves in a nominally brittle rock without suffering damage? Are the well-rounded pebbles crystalline (devitrified) melt spherules? Further investigations are in progress. If the cobble was cold and brittle, impact of well-rounded pebbles would have produced Hertzian fracture patterns (a) in the virtually elastically isotropic cobble target. For penetration depths of about 0.5 of the impactor diameter, the pebbles would require a relative impact velocity sufficient to cause pebble fragmentation and crushing, and the development of a complex Hertzian-Boussinesq fracture field (b) involving deep fracturing and lateral surface spalling (impact velocities > 50 m/s). The existing relationship could only evolve by the impact of cold, hard pebbles into a soft, plastic cobble surface (c). For limestone to have been plastic, it must have been at elevated temperature, but to prevent calcification of the material, the ambient pressure must also have been elevated. This would be possible either in the impact's gas plume, or within the confines of a thin aerodynamically-produced shock bow generated by supersonic ballistic motion of the cobble. In the latter case, it is implied that the cobble swept through the pebbles rather than vice-versa. Although there are high T-P conditions associated with volcanism, such textures have not been reported on volcaniclastic materials, nor from other high T-P environments; e.g., metamorphic (as far as the authors are aware). We propose that this very easily recognizable embedding and indentation surface texture can be used as a diagnostic criterion for the recognition of impact ejecta. The term "peening texture" is suggested, because it is absolutely analogous to the plastic-deformation induced, metal-surface textures generated by ball-bearing bombardment used in engineering metallurgy to work-harden metal surfaces. Additional information is contained in the original (Figures).
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Marshall, J. R. (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Inst. Moffett Field, CA United States)
Bratton, C. (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Inst. Moffett Field, CA United States)
Pope, K. O. (Geo Eco Arc Research La Canada, CA United States)
Ocampo, A. C. (Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA United States)
Date Acquired
August 19, 2013
Publication Date
September 1, 1999
Publication Information
Publication: Studies of Mineralogical and Textural Properties of Martian Soil: An Exobiological Perspective
Subject Category
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Meeting Information
Lunar and Planetary Science(Houston, TX)
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.