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Nature. 1995 Jan 12;373(6510):130-2.

Friction melt distribution in a multi-ring impact basin.

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  • 1Department of Geology, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, Canada.


It is generally accepted that multi-ring basins are the consequence of very large impacts, but the mechanism by which they form is still a matter of contention. Most of what is currently known about multi-ring basins is based on remote studies of the Moon and, to a lesser extent, Mars and Mercury. But at least two multi-ring impact basins have been recognized on Earth--the Sudbury (Canada) and Vredefort (South Africa) impact structures--providing an opportunity to study their properties directly. Here we describe the distribution of friction melt (pseudotachylyte) in the floor of the Sudbury impact basin. Although the veins and dykes of pseudotachylyte decrease in both thickness and frequency of occurrence towards the basin periphery, the greatest volumes of friction melt appear to define four rings around the central impact melt sheet. Field evidence indicates that the rings originated as zones of large displacement, which facilitated localized frictional melting of the basin floor during the modification (collapse) stage of the cratering process. By analogy, we argue that the rings of other multi-ring impact basins are also likely to be the remnants of such large-displacement fault zones.

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