Discovery of a meteoritic ejecta layer containing unmelted impactor fragments at the base of Paleocene lavas, Isle of Skye, ScotlandOPEN ACCESS 

Simon M. Drake; Andrew D. Beard; Adrian P. Jones; David J. Brown; A. Dominic Fortes; Ian L. Millar; Andrew Carter;Jergus Baca; Hilary Downes

Geology (2017)
Published: December 12, 2017


“Evidence for meteorite impacts in the geological record may include the presence of shocked minerals, spherule layers, and geochemical anomalies. However, it is highly unusual to find unmelted crystals from the actual impactor within an ejecta layer. Here we detail the first recorded occurrence of vanadium-rich osbornite (TiVN) on Earth, from two sites on Skye, northwest Scotland, which are interpreted as part of a meteoritic ejecta layer. TiVN has only previously been reported as dust from comet Wild 2, but on Skye it has been identified as an unmelted phase. Both ejecta layer sites also contain niobium-rich osbornite (TiNbN), which has not previously been reported. An extraterrestrial origin for these deposits is strongly supported by the presence of reidite (a high-pressure zircon polymorph), which is only found naturally at sites of meteorite impact. Barringerite [(Fe,Ni)2P], baddeleyite (ZrO2), alabandite (MnS), and carbon-bearing native iron spherules, together with planar deformation features and diaplectic glass in quartz, further support this thesis. We demonstrate through field relationships and Ar-Ar dating that the meteorite strike occurred during the mid-Paleocene. This is the first recorded mid-Paleocene impact event in the region and is coincident with the onset of magmatism in the British Palaeogene Igneous Province (BPIP). The Skye ejecta layer deposits provoke important questions regarding their lateral extent at the base of the BPIP and the possibility of their presence elsewhere beneath the much larger North Atlantic Igneous Province.”