The University of Arizona

Osmium, tungsten, and chromium isotopes in sediments and in Ni-rich spinel at the K-T boundary: Signature of a chondritic impactor

G. QUITTÉ, E. ROBIN, S. LEVASSEUR, F. CAPMAS, R. ROCCHIA, J.-L. BIRCK, C. J. ALLÈGRE

Abstract


It is now established that a large extraterrestrial object hit the Earth at the end of the Cretaceous period, about 65 Ma ago. We have investigated Re-Os, Hf-W, and Mn-Cr isotope systems in sediments from the Cretaceous and the Paleogene in order to characterize the type of impactor. Within the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary layer, extraterrestrial material is mixed with terrestrial material, causing a dilution of the extraterrestrial isotope signature that is difficult to quantify. A phase essentially composed of Ni-rich spinel, formed in the atmosphere mainly from melted projectile material, is likely to contain the extraterrestrial isotopic signature of the impactor. We show that the analysis of spinel is indeed the best approach to determine the initial isotope composition of the impactor, and that W and Cr isotopes confirm that the projectile was a carbonaceous chondrite.

Keywords


carbonaceous chondrite Meteorites;K/T boundary;Spinel;Isotopes

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