Survival of Fossilised Diatoms and Forams in Hypervelocity Impacts with Peak Shock Pressures in the 1 – 19 GPa Range

1M.J. Burchell, 1K.M. Harriss, 1M.C. Price,1,2L. Yolland
Icarus (in Press) Link to Article [http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2017.02.028]
1Centre for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, School of Physical Sciences, Univ. of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NH, United Kingdom.
2Now at: Computational Life and Medical Sciences Network, University College London, 20 Gordon Street, London WC1H, United Kingdom.
Copyright Elsevier

Previously it has been shown that diatom fossils embedded in ice could survive impacts at speeds of up to 5 km s−1 and peak shock pressures up to 12 GPa. Here we confirm these results using a different technique, with diatoms carried in liquid water suspensions at impact speeds of 2 to 6 km s−1. These correspond to peak shock pressures of 3.8 to 19.8 GPa. We also report on the results of similar experiments using forams, at impact speeds of 4.67 km s−1 (when carried in water) and 4.73 km s−1 (when carried in ice), corresponding to peak shock pressures of 11.6 and 13.1 GPa respectively. In all cases we again find survival of recognisable fragments, with mean fragment size of order 20 – 25 µm. We compare our results to the peak shock pressures that ejecta from giant impacts on the Earth would experience if it subsequently impacted the Moon. We find that 98% of impacts of terrestrial ejecta on the Moon would have experienced peak pressures less than 20 GPa if the ejecta were a soft rock (sandstone). This falls to 82% of meteorites if the ejecta were a hard rock (granite). This assumes impacts on a solid lunar surface. If we approximate the surface as a loose regolith, over 99% of the impacts involve peak shock pressures below 20 GPa. Either way, the results show that a significant fraction of terrestrial meteorites impacting the Moon will do so with peak shock pressures which in our experiments permit the survival of recognisable fossil fragments.

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