Shock Melting of the Canyon Diablo Impactor: Constraints from Nickel-59 Contents and Numerical Modeling

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Science  02 Jul 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5424, pp. 85-88
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5424.85

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Two main types of material survive from the Canyon Diablo impactor, which produced Meteor Crater in Arizona: iron meteorites, which did not melt during the impact; and spheroids, which did. Ultrasensitive measurements using accelerator mass spectrometry show that the meteorites contain about seven times as much nickel-59 as the spheroids. Lower average nickel-59 contents in the spheroids indicate that they typically came from 0.5 to 1 meter deeper in the impactor than did the meteorites. Numerical modeling for an impact velocity of 20 kilometers per second shows that a shell 1.5 to 2 meters thick, corresponding to 16 percent of the projectile volume, remained solid on the rear surface; that most of the projectile melted; and that little, if any, vaporized.

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