Abstract

Hypervelocity impacts of cosmic projectiles larger than ∼200 m diameter are capable of forming complex craters on Earth. At these craters, shock loading, shock damage, and excavation flow are followed by a gravity-driven collapse of the deep transient cavity. Such impact structures are characterized by a central uplift, a flat crater floor, and a terraced crater rim. Collapse-induced deformation features, like folds and brittle fault zones, have many similarities to tectonic structures. Typical deformation patterns of complex terrestrial impact craters of 5–15 km diameter are compiled and analyzed with respect to their kinematic development. Unlike their tectonic counterparts, deformation structures are always the result of non-plane-strain deformation and are formed in a single event that takes place in seconds to minutes. To understand the high-strain-rate processes, the microstructure of an impact-induced fold of the Crooked Creek impact crater (∼7 km diameter), Missouri, United States, is investigated in detail. A period of 20–30 s at the most is determined for the collapse phase of this crater. The gross plastic deformation behavior of the fold is achieved by localized brittle deformation along millimeter- to centimeter-spaced fault zones, forming a network of veins. Shock damage has fractured ∼40% of grain boundaries. The onset of collapse and associated deformation started in rocks with a reduced cohesion and is friction controlled.

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