The University of Arizona

Textural constraints on the formation of impact spherules: A case study from the Dales Gorge BIF, Paleoproterozoic Hamersley Group of Western Australia



Impact ejecta (about 2.5 Gyr old) in the DS4 layer of the Dales Gorge BIF (Hamersley Group, Western Australia) are so well preserved that many original textures such as vesicles and microlites are faithfully preserved. About 65% of the particles in the layer originated as impact ejecta, of which 81% are splash forms. The remaining 19% are angular, but the splash forms and angular particles have the same composition (mainly diagenetic stilpnomelane and K-feldspar) and share a common suite of internal textures. Some particles contain randomly oriented microlites texturally identical to plagioclase in basalts. Most splash forms have rims of inward-growing crystals that may have formed from the melt (perhaps nucleated by impinging dust) or via thermal devitrification. The rims clearly formed in flight because in broken particles (which make up about 13% of the splash forms) they are generally not present on broken surfaces. The origin of the angular particles is uncertain, but they may represent solid ejecta. Given the large sizes and variable shapes of the splash forms, they are probably droplets of impact melt emplaced ballistically. This is largely by analogy to the K-T boundary layer, but DS4 splash forms differ from K-T spherules in important ways suggesting the K-T model is not universal. The occurrence of basaltic ejecta from a large impact highlights its scarcity in the stratigraphic record despite the areal abundance of oceanic crust. The diverse textures formed via in-flight crystallization suggest particle paths in the plume are more complex than is generally appreciated.


Microtektite(s);Impact ejecta;Impact processes

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