Late Eocene impact ejecta in Italy: Attempts to constrain the impactor composition from isotopic analyses of spinel-rich samples
Christian Koeberl, Alessandro Montanari, Toni Schulz, Jonas Tusch, Berengere Mougel, Frédéric Moynier, "Late Eocene impact ejecta in Italy: Attempts to constrain the impactor composition from isotopic analyses of spinel-rich samples", 250 Million Years of Earth History in Central Italy: Celebrating 25 Years of the Geological Observatory of Coldigioco, Christian Koeberl, David M. Bice
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The late Eocene was marked by multiple impact events, possibly related to a comet or asteroid shower. Marine sediments worldwide contain evidence for at least two closely spaced impactoclastic layers. The upper layer might be correlated with the North American tektite-strewn field (with the 85-km-diameter Chesapeake Bay impact structure [USA] as its source crater), although this is debated, whereas the lower, microkrystite layer (with clinopyroxene [cpx]-bearing spherules) was most likely derived from the 100-km-diameter Popigai impact crater (Russia). The Eocene-Oligocene global stratotype section and point is located at Massignano, Italy, and below the boundary, in the late Eocene, at the 5.61 m level, shocked quartz and pancake-shaped smectite spherules that contain (Ni- and Cr-rich) magnesioferrite spinel crystals are found. These are associated with a positive Ir anomaly in deposits with the same age as the Popigai-derived cpx spherule layer. This layer is overlain by another Ir-rich layer, likely due to another large impact event. From a large amount of “pancake-bearing” rock, we isolated a few hundred milligrams of this spinel-rich material. The tungsten isotopic composition of this material shows more or less a terrestrial composition. However, the spinel-rich materials have excess 54Cr values (expressed as ε54Cr, which is the per ten thousand deviation of the 54Cr/52Cr ratio from a terrestrial standard) of around –0.4 to –0.5 ε54Cr, which distinctly point to an ordinary chondritic impactor. This result supports the asteroid impact interpretation but not the comet impact hypothesis.
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250 Million Years of Earth History in Central Italy: Celebrating 25 Years of the Geological Observatory of Coldigioco
Central Italy has been a cradle of geology for centuries. For more than 100 years, studies at the Umbria and Marche Apennines have led to new ideas and a better understanding of the past, such as the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary event, or the events across the Eocene–Oligocene transition from a greenhouse to an icehouse world. The Umbria-Marche Apennines are entirely made of marine sedimentary rocks, representing a continuous record of the geotectonic evolution of an epeiric sea from the Early Triassic to the Pleistocene. The book includes reviews and original research works accomplished with the support of the Geological Observatory of Coldigioco, an independent research and educational center, which was founded in an abandoned medieval hamlet near Apiro in 1992.