The University of Arizona

Geological overview and cratering model for the Haughton impact structure, Devon Island, Canadian High Arctic

Gordon R. Osinski, Pascal Lee, John G. Spray, John Parnell, Darlene S. S. Lim, Theodore E. Bunch, Charles S. Cockell, Brian Glass


The Haughton impact structure has been the focus of systematic, multi-disciplinary field and laboratory research activities over the past several years. Regional geological mapping has refined the sedimentary target stratigraphy and constrained the thickness of the sedimentary sequence at the time of impact to ~1880 m. New 40Ar-39Ar dates place the impact event at ~39 Ma, in the late Eocene. Haughton has an apparent crater diameter of ~23 km, with an estimated rim (final crater) diameter of ~16 km. The structure lacks a central topographic peak or peak ring, which is unusual for craters of this size. Geological mapping and sampling reveals that a series of different impactites are present at Haughton. The volumetrically dominant crater-fill impact melt breccias contain a calcite-anhydrite-silicate glass groundmass, all of which have been shown to represent impact-generated melt phases. These impactites are, therefore, stratigraphically and genetically equivalent to coherent impact melt rocks present in craters developed in crystalline targets. The crater-fill impactites provided a heat source that drove a post-impact hydrothermal system. During this time, Haughton would have represented a transient, warm, wet microbial oasis. A subsequent episode of erosion, during which time substantial amounts of impactites were removed, was followed by the deposition of intracrater lacustrine sediments of the Haughton Formation during the Miocene. Present-day intracrater lakes and ponds preserve a detailed paleoenvironmental record dating back to the last glaciation in the High Arctic. Modern modification of the landscape is dominated by seasonal regional glacial and niveal melting, and local periglacial processes. The impact processing of target materials improved the opportunities for colonization and has provided several present-day habitats suitable for microbial life that otherwise do not exist in the surrounding terrain.


Cratering model;Crater morphometry;Devon Island;Haughton impact structure;Sedimentary target

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