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The alteration or transformation of impact melt rock to clay minerals, particularly smectite, has been recognized in several impact structures (e.g., Ries, Chicxulub, Mjølnir). We studied the experimental alteration of two natural impact melt rocks from suevite clasts that were recovered from drill cores into the Chesapeake Bay impact structure and two synthetic glasses. These experiments were conducted at hydrothermal temperature (265 °C) in order to reproduce conditions found in melt-bearing deposits in the first thousand years after deposition. The experimental results were compared to geochemical modeling (PHREEQC) of the same alteration and to original mineral assemblages in the natural melt rock samples.

In the alteration experiments, clay minerals formed on the surfaces of the melt particles and as fine-grained suspended material. Authigenic expanding clay minerals (saponite and Ca-smectite) and vermiculite/chlorite (clinochlore) were identified in addition to analcime. Ferripyrophyllite was formed in three of four experiments. Comparable minerals were predicted in the PHREEQC modeling. A comparison between the phases formed in our experiments and those in the cores suggests that the natural alteration occurred under hydrothermal conditions similar to those reproduced in the experiment.

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