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Abstract

We report results of an interdisciplinary project devoted to the 26 km-diameter Ries crater and to the genesis of suevite. Recent laboratory analyses of “crater suevite” occurring within the central crater basin and of “outer suevite” on top of the continuous ejecta blanket, as well as data accumulated during the past 50 years, are interpreted within the boundary conditions imposed by a comprehensive new effort to model the crater formation and its ejecta deposits by computer code calculations (Artemieva et al. 2013). The properties of suevite are considered on all scales from megascopic to submicroscopic in the context of its geological setting. In a new approach, we reconstruct the minimum/maximum volumes of all allochthonous impact formations (108/116 km3), of suevite (14/22 km3), and the total volume of impact melt (4.9/8.0 km3) produced by the Ries impact event prior to erosion. These volumes are reasonably compatible with corresponding values obtained by numerical modeling. Taking all data on modal composition, texture, chemistry, and shock metamorphism of suevite, and the results of modeling into account, we arrive at a new empirical model implying five main consecutive phases of crater formation and ejecta emplacement. Numerical modeling indicates that only a very small fraction of suevite can be derived from the “primary ejecta plume,” which is possibly represented by the fine-grained basal layer of outer suevite. The main mass of suevite was deposited from a “secondary plume” induced by an explosive reaction (“fuel-coolant interaction”) of impact melt with water and volatile-rich sedimentary rocks within a clast-laden temporary melt pool. Both melt pool and plume appear to be heterogeneous in space and time. Outer suevite appears to be derived from an early formed, melt-rich and clast-poor plume region rich in strongly shocked components (melt ≫ clasts) and originating from an upper, more marginal zone of the melt pool. Crater suevite is obviously deposited from later formed, clast-rich and melt-poor plumes dominated by unshocked and weakly shocked clasts and derived from a deeper, central zone of the melt pool. Genetically, we distinguish between “primary suevite” which includes dike suevite, the lower sublayer of crater suevite, and possibly a basal layer of outer suevite, and “secondary suevite” represented by the massive upper sublayer of crater suevite and the main mass of outer suevite.