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The formation of peak rings in large impact craters

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Science  18 Nov 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6314, pp. 878-882
DOI: 10.1126/science.aah6561

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Drilling into Chicxulub's formation

The Chicxulub impact crater, known for its link to the demise of the dinosaurs, also provides an opportunity to study rocks from a large impact structure. Large impact craters have “peak rings” that define a complex crater morphology. Morgan et al. looked at rocks from a drilling expedition through the peak rings of the Chicxulub impact crater (see the Perspective by Barton). The drill cores have features consistent with a model that postulates that a single over-heightened central peak collapsed into the multiple-peak-ring structure. The validity of this model has implications for far-ranging subjects, from how giant impacts alter the climate on Earth to the morphology of crater-dominated planetary surfaces.

Science, this issue p. 878; see also p. 836

Abstract

Large impacts provide a mechanism for resurfacing planets through mixing near-surface rocks with deeper material. Central peaks are formed from the dynamic uplift of rocks during crater formation. As crater size increases, central peaks transition to peak rings. Without samples, debate surrounds the mechanics of peak-ring formation and their depth of origin. Chicxulub is the only known impact structure on Earth with an unequivocal peak ring, but it is buried and only accessible through drilling. Expedition 364 sampled the Chicxulub peak ring, which we found was formed from uplifted, fractured, shocked, felsic basement rocks. The peak-ring rocks are cross-cut by dikes and shear zones and have an unusually low density and seismic velocity. Large impacts therefore generate vertical fluxes and increase porosity in planetary crust.

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