Abstract

Integrated electron nanobeam (EBSD, CL, EDS) and isotopic measurements (U–Pb, (U–Th)/He) of zircon from the collar and centre of the 80 km wide central uplift of the 2020 ± 3 Ma Vredefort impact structure reveal new shock features in a microstructural progression related to impact basin formation and degree of U–Pb age resetting: (1) planar fractures in {1K0} and {1K2} orientation during initial shock wave compression; (2) curviplanar fractures in {1K1} orientation, now annealed, which host glassy inclusions of partial melt of the host rock; (3) microtwin lamellae in an orientation of 65° about [110], attributed to shock wave rarefaction; (4) nucleation of impact-age crystallites, possibly on microtwins, during post-shock heating by impact melt; and (5) crystal-plastic deformation linked to crater modification of the core of the central uplift. Planar fracturing and microtwinning ≥20 GPa in “cold shock” zircon in granitoid at a radial distance of 25 km failed to reset zircon age. Single-grain ID–TIMS data extend between pre-impact age of 2077 ± 11 Ma and a secondary Pb-loss event at ca. 1.0 Ga — the latter reflecting Kibaran igneous activity between 1.110 and 1.021 Ga. Age resetting by the impact event operated in an ∼15 km wide “hot shock” zone of impact-elevated temperatures ≥700 °C at the core of the central uplift. Mechanisms include internal recrystallization, defect-accelerated Pb diffusion via shock microstructures and melt films, and late crystal-plastic deformation. Igneous zircons from a 2019 ± 2 Ma foliated norite impact melt yield a mean (U–Th)/He date of 923 ± 61 Ma, indicating exposure of the present surface after this time.

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