Terrestrial consequences of hypervelocity impact – shock metamorphism, shock barometry, and newly discovered impact structures

Sammanfattning: Impact cratering was once considered a rare geological process of no, or little, importance to the evolution of the Solar System and planet Earth. After more than 50 years of space exploration and the discovery of numerous (~190 as of October 2016) impact structures on Earth, this view has changed, and it is now clear that impact craters are in fact one of the most common morphological features on solid bodies in the Solar System. The formation of a (hypervelocity) impact crater involves extreme conditions that cannot be compared with any other natural geological process, with extreme pressures and temperatures causing melting and/or vaporization of both projectile and portions of the target rocks. Upon impact, shock waves are generated at the projectile-target interface, which pass through the target rocks at supersonic velocity. The passage of the shock waves induce irreversible changes, so called shock metamorphic effects in the target rocks, including the formation of high pressure mineral polymorphs, diaplectic glasses, and microdeformation features in minerals. The most investigated of these microstructures are planar deformation features (PDFs) in quartz. These are straight, parallel, closely spaced (2-10 µm apart), sets of (when fresh) glass lamellae only naturally formed by impact cratering. PDFs are oriented parallel to specific crystallographic planes, with the most frequently reported orientations being parallel to low Miller-Bravais index planes (e.g., {10‾13}, {10‾12}). The orientation pattern of a PDF population differ depending on the pressure that the host quartz grain was subjected to, meaning that the orientations of PDFs can be used as a shock barometer, allowing e.g., production of shock barometry profiles that illustrate shock attenuation at impact structures. The research presented in this thesis focuses on impact craters, and the process by which they form, impact cratering, with special emphasis on shock metamorphic features in target rocks at the Siljan impact structure (Sweden). The results and discussion highlight the importance of the way datasets of PDF statistics are obtained and processed, using manual and/or automated methods of indexing. The interpretation of the dataset can influence the shock barometry models, and the need for a unified method is discussed. With regards to the Siljan impact structure, the pre-erosional rim-to-rim diameter of the crater was estimated to be on the order of 60 km, based on a combination of shock barometry and numerical simulation, produced by a collision between a ~5 km diameter projectile and Earth. Results of the numerical modeling are consistent with a sedimentary thickness overlying the crystalline basement at the time of impact of ~2.5 km, and post-impact erosion of the crater on the order of 3 to 3.5 km.The thesis also encompasses studies of two other, newly confirmed, Swedish impact structures, Målingen and Hummeln. The possible means of formation for both Målingen and Hummeln had been discussed for many years before the first bona fide evidence for the impact origin of the two structures was presented in papers included in this thesis.Furthermore, terrestrial impact structures with reliable ages (i.e., errors on age of less than 2 %) are discussed in the context of possible variations in the impactor flux to Earth over time. According to the results, there is presently no evidence for the existence of a periodic contribution to the terrestrial impact population.