Sunday, April 10, 2016

Evidence of an Impact From the PaleoArchean in Australia

A new ∼3.46 Ga asteroid impact ejecta unit at Marble Bar, Pilbara Craton, Western Australia: a petrological, microprobe and laser ablation ICPMS study


Glikson et al


The Archean record contains seventeen asteroid impact ejecta units interpreted in terms of terrestrial vestiges of an extended late heavy bombardment (LHB) (, and ). Correlated impact ejecta units include the 3.47 Ga in the Barberton Greenstone Belt, Kaapvaal Craton, South Africa, and Pilbara region of Western Australia, with multiple ejecta units in the 3.25–3.22 Ga and 2.63–2.48 Ga intervals. This paper reports the discovery and investigation of a new impact ejecta unit within the Marble Bar Chert Member (MBCM) of the felsic volcanic Duffer Formation, east Pilbara Craton, Western Australia. The age of the MBCM is constrained by a 3459±2 Ma U-Pb zircon date from the uppermost volcanic unit of the Duffer Formation and by a 3449±3 Ma U-Pb zircon date from the overlying felsic volcanic Panorama Formation, stratigraphically above the intervening un-dated Apex Basalt. The ejecta unit, observed in a drill core (ABDP 1) ∼4 km south-southwest of Marble Bar, consists of multiple lenses and bands of almost totally silicified impact spherules 1–2 mm in diameter. All internal primary textures of the spherules have been destroyed. Nonetheless, Fe-rich spherule rims, largely composed of secondary siderite, are well preserved. Chemical analyses of the rims reveal iron-magnesium carbonate displaying high Fe, Mg, Ni, Co and Zn. Whole-rock and in-situ analyses (X-ray fluorescence, Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICPMS), electron-microprobe (EMP) and EMP-calibrated laser ICPMS) reveal that the rims contain high Ni abundances and high Ni/Cr ratios (less than 50). The spherules are separated by an arenite matrix and spherule lenses also occur within bedded chert. The spherules are particularly visible over some ∼14 m of true stratigraphic thickness in which chert breccia is interpreted to represent a tsunami-generated diamictite affected by hydrothermal fragmentation and veining. Despite the almost total silicification of the MBCM whole-rock nickel sulphide (NIS) results indicate high Ir (2 ppb) and a low Pd/Ir ratio (2.0), consistent with geochemical features of impact ejecta units. Dense concentrations of spherules at the 57-58 m level and the 77 m level of the core, separated by banded chert, raise the possibility of two distinct impact events. Stratigraphic and isotopic age data distinguish between the 3459–3449 Ma age of the MBCM ejecta unit and ∼3470.1 ± 1.9 Ma impact ejecta units in the Antarctic Creek Member, Mount Ada Basalt, about 40 km to the west of Marble Bar. In combination with a 3472 ± 2.3 Ma impact unit in the Barberton greenstone belt, these impact ejecta units record large Paleoarchean asteroid impacts, significant for understanding early earth bombardment rates and early crustal evolution.

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