The Lawn Hill annulus: An Ordovician meteorite impact into water-saturated dolomite

1Vicki Darlington,1,2Tom Blenkinsop,1Paul Dirks,3Jess Salisbury,3Andrew Tomkins
Meteoritics & Planetary Science (in Press) Link to Article [DOI: 10.1111/maps.12734]
1College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia
2School of Earth and Ocean Science, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
3School of Geosciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons

The Lawn Hill Impact Structure (LHIS) is located 250 km N of Mt Isa in NW Queensland, Australia, and is marked by a highly deformed dolomite annulus with an outer diameter of ~18 km, overlying low metamorphic grade siltstone, sandstone, and shale, along the NE margin of the Georgina Basin. This study provides detailed field observations from sections of the Lawn Hill annulus and adjacent areas that demonstrate a clear link between the deformation of the dolomite and the Lawn Hill impact. 40Ar-39Ar dating of impact-related melt particles provides a time of impact in the Ordovician (472 ± 8 Ma) when the Georgina Basin was an active depocenter. The timing and stratigraphic thickness of the dolomite sequence in the annulus suggest that there was possibly up to 300 m of additional sedimentary rocks on top of the currently exposed Thorntonia Limestone at the time of impact. The exposed annulus is remarkably well preserved, with preservation attributed to postimpact sedimentation. The LHIS has an atypical crater morphology with no central uplift. The heterogeneous target materials at Lawn Hill were probably low-strength, porous, and water-saturated, with all three properties affecting the crater morphology. The water-saturated nature of the carbonate unit at the time of impact is thought to have influenced the highly brecciated nature of the annulus, and restricted melt production. The impact timing raises the possibility that the Lawn Hill structure may be a member of a group of impacts resulting from an asteroid breakup that occurred in the mid-Ordovician (470 ± 6 Ma).

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