Geochemical identification of projectiles in impact rocks

Authors


roald.tagle@vub.ac.be

Abstract

Abstract— The three major geochemical methods for impactor identification are evaluated with respect to their potential and limitations with regards to the precise detection and identification of meteoritic material in impactites. The identification of a projectile component in impactites can be achieved by determining certain isotopic and elemental ratios in contaminated impactites. The isotopic methods are based on Os and Cr isotopic ratios. Osmium isotopes are highly sensitive for the detection of minute amounts of extraterrestrial components of even <<0.05 wt% in impactites. However, this only holds true for target lithologies with almost no chemical signature of mantle material or young mantle-derived mafic rocks. Furthermore, this method is not currently suitable for the precise identification of the projectile type. The Cr-isotopic method requires the relatively highest projectile contamination (several wt%) in order to detect an extraterrestrial component, but may allow the identification of three different groups of extraterrestrial materials, ordinary chondrites, an enstatite chondrites, and differentiated achondrites. A significant advantage of this method is its independence of the target lithology and post-impact alteration. The use of elemental ratios, including platinum group elements (PGE: Os, Ir, Ru, Pt, Rh, Pd), in combination with Ni and Cr represents a very powerful method for the detection and identification of projectiles in terrestrial and lunar impactites. For most projectile types, this method is almost independent of the target composition, especially if PGE ratios are considered. This holds true even in cases of terrestrial target lithologies with a high component of upper mantle material. The identification of the projectile is achieved by comparison of the “projectile elemental ratio” derived from the slope of the mixing line (target-projectile) with the elemental ratio in the different types of possible projectiles (e.g., chondrites). However, this requires a set of impactite samples of various degree of projectile contamination.

Ancillary