The effect of target lithology on the products of impact melting

G. R. Osinski, R. A.F. Grieve, G. S. Collins, C. Marion, P. Sylvester

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Impact cratering is an important geological process on the terrestrial planets and rocky and icy moons of the outer solar system. Impact events generate pressures and temperatures that can melt a substantial volume of the target; however, there remains considerable discussion as to the effect of target lithology on the generation of impact melts. Early studies showed that for impacts into crystalline targets, coherent impact melt rocks or "sheets" are formed with these rocks often displaying classic igneous structures (e.g., columnar jointing) and textures. For impact structures containing some amount of sedimentary rocks in the target sequence, a wide range of impact-generated lithologies have been described, although it has generally been suggested that impact melt is either lacking or is volumetrically minor. This is surprising given theoretical constraints, which show that as much melt should be produced during impacts into sedimentary targets. The question then arises: where has all the melt gone? The goal of this synthesis is to explore the effect of target lithology on the products of impact melting. A comparative study of the similarly sized Haughton, Mistastin, and Ries impact structures, suggests that the fundamental processes of impact melting are basically the same in sedimentary and crystalline targets, regardless of target properties. Furthermore, using advanced microbeam analytical techniques, it is apparent that, for the structures under consideration here, a large proportion of the melt is retained within the crater (as crater-fill impactites) for impacts into sedimentary-bearing target rocks. Thus, it is suggested that the basic products are genetically equivalent but they just appear different. That is, it is the textural, chemical and physical properties of the products that vary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1939-1954
Number of pages16
JournalMeteoritics and Planetary Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2008


Dive into the research topics of 'The effect of target lithology on the products of impact melting'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this