The University of Arizona

Application of organic geochemistry to detect signatures of organic matter in the Haughton impact structure

John Parnell, Pascal Lee, Gordon R. Osinski, Charles S. Cockell


Organic geochemistry applied to samples of bedrock and surface sediment from the Haughton impact structure detects a range of signatures representing the impact event and the transfer of organic matter from the crater bedrock to its erosion products. The bedrock dolomite contains hydrocarbon-bearing fluid inclusions which were incorporated before the impact event. Comparison of biomarker data from the hydrocarbons in samples inside and outside of the crater show the thermal signature of an impact. The occurrence of hydrocarbon inclusions in hydrothermal mineral samples shows that organic matter was mobilized and migrated in the immediate aftermath of the impact. The hydrocarbon signature was then transferred from bedrock to the crater-fill lacustrine deposits and present-day sediments in the crater, including wind-blown detritus in snow/ice. Separate signatures are detected from modern microbial life in crater rock and sediment samples. Signatures in Haughton crater samples are readily detectable because they include hydrocarbons generated by the burial of organic matter. This type of organic matter is not expected in crater samples on other planets, but the Haughton data show that, using very high resolution detection of organic compounds, any signature of primitive life in the crater rocks could be transferred to surface detritus and so extend the sampling medium.


Fluid inclusions;organic Geochemistry;Haughton impact structure;Impact craters;Organic matter

Full Text: