Devolatilization or melting of carbonates at Meteor Crater, AZ?

Hörz, F., Archer, P. D., Niles, P. B., Zolensky, M. E. and Evans, M. (2015)

Meteoritics & Planetary Science. doi: 10.1111/maps.12453


We have investigated the carbonates in the impact melts and in a monolithic clast of highly shocked Coconino sandstone of Meteor Crater, AZ to evaluate whether melting or devolatilization is the dominant response of carbonates during high-speed meteorite impact. Both melt- and clast-carbonates are calcites that have identical crystal habits and that contain anomalously high SiO2 and Al2O3. Also, both calcite occurrences lack any meteoritic contamination, such as Fe or Ni, which is otherwise abundantly observed in all other impact melts and their crystallization products at Meteor Crater. The carbon and oxygen isotope systematics for both calcite deposits suggest a low temperature environment (<100 °C) for their precipitation from an aqueous solution, consistent with caliche. We furthermore subjected bulk melt beads to thermogravimetric analysis and monitored the evolving volatiles with a quadrupole mass spectrometer. CO2 yields were <5 wt%, with typical values in the 2 wt% range; also total CO2 loss is positively correlated with H2O loss, an indication that most of these volatiles derive from the secondary calcite. Also, transparent glasses, considered the most pristine impact melts, yield 100 wt% element totals by EMPA, suggesting complete loss of CO2. The target dolomite decomposed into MgO, CaO, and CO2; the CO2 escaped and the CaO and MgO combined with SiO2 from coexisting quartz and FeO from the impactor to produce the dominant impact melt at Meteor Crater. Although confined to Meteor Crater, these findings are in stark contrast to Osinski et al. (2008) who proposed that melting of carbonates, rather than devolatilization, is the dominant process during hypervelocity impact into carbonate-bearing targets, including Meteor Crater.[/su_quote]