Origin of the degassing pipes at the Ries impact structure and implications for impact‐induced alteration on Mars and other planetary bodies

Christy Caudill, Gordon R. Osinski, Rebecca N. Greenberger, Livio L. Tornabene, Fred J. Longstaffe, Roberta L. Flemming, Bethany L. Ehlmann

Meteoritics & Planetary Science
Version of Record online: 15 February 2021


“The impact melt‐bearing breccias at the Ries impact structure, Germany, host degassing pipes: vertical structures that are inferred to represent conduits along which gases and fluids escaped to the surface, consistent with hydrothermal activity that occurs soon after an impact event. Although the presence of degassing pipes has been recognized within the well‐preserved and long‐studied ejecta deposits at the Ries, a detailed mineralogical study of their alteration mineralogy, as an avenue to elucidate their origins, has not been conducted to date. Through the application of high‐resolution in situ reflectance imaging spectroscopy and X‐ray diffraction, this study shows for the first time that the degassing pipe interiors and associated alteration are comprised of hydrated and hydroxylated silicates (i.e., Fe/Mg smectitic clay minerals with chloritic or other hydroxy‐interlayered material) as secondary hydrothermal mineral phases. This study spatially extends the known effects of impact hydrothermal activity into the ejecta deposits, beyond the crater rim. It has been suggested that the degassing pipes at the Ries are analogous to crater‐related pit clusters observed in impact melt‐bearing deposits on Mars, Ceres, and Vesta. The results of this work may inform on the presence of crustal volatiles and their interaction during the impact process on rocky bodies throughout the solar system. The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover may have the opportunity to investigate impact‐related features in situ; if so, this work suggests that such investigations may provide key information on the origin and formation of clay minerals on Mars as well as hold exciting implications for future Mars exploration.”