Abstract

The ~3.8 km Steinheim Basin in SW Germany is a well-preserved complex impact structure characterized by a prominent central uplift and well-developed shatter cones that occur in different shocked target lithologies. Scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy and electron probe microanalysis have revealed, for the first time, the occurrence of rare metals on the Steinheim shatter cone surfaces. Shatter cones produced from the Middle Jurassic (Aalenian) Opalinus Claystone (‘Opalinuston’), temporarily exposed in the central uplift in spring 2010, and shatter cones in Upper Jurassic (Oxfordian) limestones from the southeastern crater rim domain are commonly covered by faint coatings. The Opalinus Claystone shatter cone surfaces carry coatings dominated by Fe, Ca, P, S and Al, and are covered by abundant small, finely dispersed microparticles and aggregates of native gold, as well as locally elevated concentrations of Pt. On several surfaces of the claystone shatter cones, additional Fe, Ni and Co was detected. The Ca–Mn-rich coatings on the limestone shatter cone surfaces locally include patches of Fe, Ni, Co, Cu and Au in variable amounts and proportions. The intriguing coatings on the Steinheim shatter cones could either stem from the impacted Lower Jurassic to Palaeogene sedimentary target rocks; from the crystalline-metamorphic Variscan crater basement; or, alternatively, these coatings might represent altered meteoritic matter from the Steinheim impactor, possibly an iron meteorite, which may have been remobilized during post-impact hydrothermal activity. We here discuss the most plausible source for the rare metals found adherent to the shatter cone surfaces.

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