Large meteorite impact structures on the terrestrial bodies of the Solar System contain pronounced topographic rings, which emerged from uplifted target (crustal) rocks within minutes of impact. To flow rapidly over large distances, these target rocks must have weakened drastically, but they subsequently regained sufficient strength to build and sustain topographic rings. The mechanisms of rock deformation that accomplish such extreme change in mechanical behaviour during cratering are largely unknown and have been debated for decades. Recent drilling of the approximately 200-km-diameter Chicxulub impact structure in Mexico has produced a record of brittle and viscous deformation within its peak-ring rocks. Here we show how catastrophic rock weakening upon impact is followed by an increase in rock strength that culminated in the formation of the peak ring during cratering. The observations point to quasi-continuous rock flow and hence acoustic fluidization as the dominant physical process controlling initial cratering, followed by increasingly localized faulting.
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All data generated or analysed during this study are included in this published Article. Other Expedition 364 data are available online (https://doi.org/10.14379/iodp.proc.364.2017).
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This work was supported by the Priority Programs 527 and 1006 of the German Science Foundation (grants Ri 916/16-1 and PO 1815/2-1), National Science Foundation grants (OCE-1737351, OCE-1450528 and OCE-1736826), and Natural Environment Research Council (grants NE/P011195/1 and NE/P005217/1). The Chicxulub drilling expedition was funded by the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD) and the IODP as Expedition 364 with co-funding from the ICDP. The Yucatan State Government and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) provided logistical support. This research used samples and data provided by IODP. Samples can be requested at http://web.iodp.tamu.edu/sdrm. We are grateful for assistance from the staff of the IODP Core Repository in Bremen, Germany, during the Onshore Science Party. We thank B. Ivanov and C. Koeberl for constructive reviews and S. Teuber for assistance in figure preparation. This is UTIG contribution number 3,278.
Nature thanks B. Ivanov and C. Koeberl for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Extended data figures and tables
Extended Data Fig. 1 Lower-hemisphere, equal-area diagrams showing poles to pre-impact aplite, diabase and pegmatite sheet intrusions.
N, north. n, number of dykes. Source data
Extended Data Fig. 2 Diagram showing pressure versus time as recorded by 100 Lagrangian tracer particles in the peak-ring rocks.
(See Supplementary Video for location of tracer particles). Grey circles show the pressure of each tracer particle at time intervals of 2 s. The black solid line shows average pressure (all tracer particles). We note the elevated pressures between T = 100 s and T = 250 s during central uplift formation and collapse.
Animation of the numerical simulation results. The target (and impactor) materials are indicated by colour, consistent with the individual frames shown in Fig. 2 (carbonate rock, grey; crust, pink; mantle, green). Large-scale deformation of the entire target is illustrated by a grid of Lagrangian tracer particles (black dots) with 2-km initial spacing. In addition, 100 tracer particles within the peak-ring rocks are highlighted in blue. The inset shows the same tracer particles in a Lagrangian reference frame centered on the average coordinates of the highlighted tracer particles.
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Riller, U., Poelchau, M.H., Rae, A.S.P. et al. Rock fluidization during peak-ring formation of large impact structures. Nature 562, 511–518 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0607-z
- Peak-ring Formation
- Target Rocks
- Acoustic Fluidization
- Cataclasite Zones
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