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Melt droplet formation in energetic impact events


IT has long been known that impact between rocky bodies at velocities of 15 km s−1 can melt or vaporize both the impacting object and a portion of the target1. We have recently shown2,3 that geological materials initially shocked to high pressure approach the liquid–vapour phase boundary from the liquid side as they decompress, breaking up into an expanding spray of liquid droplets. Here we present a simple theory for estimating the sizes of these droplets as a function of impactor size and velocity, and show that these sizes are consistent with observations of microtektites and spherules found in the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary layer.

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Melosh, H., Vickery, A. Melt droplet formation in energetic impact events. Nature 350, 494–497 (1991).

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