The University of Arizona

Chesapeake Bay impact structure: Morphology, crater fill, and relevance for impact structures on Mars

J. Wright Horton, Jens Ormö, David S. Powars, Gregory S. Gohn

Abstract


The late Eocene Chesapeake Bay impact structure (CBIS) on the Atlantic margin of Virginia is one of the largest and best-preserved "wet-target" craters on Earth. It provides an accessible analog for studying impact processes in layered and wet targets on volatile-rich planets. The CBIS formed in a layered target of water, weak clastic sediments, and hard crystalline rock. The buried structure consists of a deep, filled central crater, 38 km in width, surrounded by a shallower brim known as the annular trough. The annular trough formed partly by collapse of weak sediments, which expanded the structure to ~85 km in diameter. Such extensive collapse, in addition to excavation processes, can explain the "inverted sombrero" morphology observed at some craters in layered targets.The distribution of crater-fill materials in the CBIS is related to the morphology. Suevitic breccia, including pre-resurge fallback deposits, is found in the central crater. Impact-modified sediments, formed by fluidization and collapse of water-saturated sand and silt-clay, occur in the annular trough. Allogenic sediment-clast breccia, interpreted as ocean-resurge deposits, overlies the other impactites and covers the entire crater beneath a blanket of postimpact sediments.The formation of chaotic terrains on Mars is attributed to collapse due to the release of volatiles from thick layered deposits. Some flat-floored rimless depressions with chaotic infill in these terrains are impact craters that expanded by collapse farther than expected for similar-sized complex craters in solid targets. Studies of crater materials in the CBIS provide insights into processes of crater expansion on Mars and their links to volatiles.

Keywords


Planet Mars;Impact craters;Chesapeake Bay;Virginia;Impact breccia;Impact crater USA

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