Hf isotope evidence for effective impact melt homogenisation at the Sudbury impact crater, Ontario, Canada

1Gavin G. Kenny, 2,3Joseph A. Petrus, 4Martin J. Whitehouse, 5J. Stephen Daly, 1Balz S. Kamber
Geochmica et Cosmochimica Acta (in Press) Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gca.2017.08.009]
1Department of Geology, School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
2School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia
3Department of Earth Sciences, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
4Department of Geosciences, Swedish Museum of Natural History, 104 05 Stockholm, Sweden
5UCD School of Earth Sciences, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland
Copyright Elsevier

We report on the first zircon hafnium-oxygen isotope and trace element study of a transect through one of the largest terrestrial impact melt sheets. The differentiated melt sheet at the 1.85 Ga, originally ca. 200 km in diameter Sudbury impact crater, Ontario, Canada, yields a tight range of uniform zircon Hf isotope compositions (εHf(1850) of ca. -9 to -12). This is consistent with its well-established crustal origin and indicates differentiation from a single melt that was initially efficiently homogenised. We propose that the heterogeneity in other isotopic systems, such as Pb, in early-emplaced impact melt at Sudbury is associated with volatility-related depletion during the impact cratering process. This depletion leaves the isotopic systems of more volatile elements more susceptible to contamination during post-impact assimilation of country rock, whereas the systems of more refractory elements preserve initial homogeneities. Zircon oxygen isotope compositions in the melt sheet are also restricted in range relative to those in the impacted target rocks. However, they display a marked offset approximately one-third up the melt sheet stratigraphy that is interpreted to be a result of post-impact assimilation of 18O-enirched rocks into the base of the cooling impact melt.

Given that impact cratering was a more dominant process in the early history of the inner Solar System than it is today, and the possibility that impact melt sheets were sources of ex situ Hadean zircon grains, these findings may have significance for the interpretation of the early zircon Hf record. We speculate that apparent εHf-time arrays observed in the oldest terrestrial and lunar zircon datasets may be related to impact melting homogenising previously more diverse crust.

We also show that spatially restricted partial melting of rocks buried beneath the superheated impact melt at Sudbury provided a zircon crystallising environment distinct to the impact melt sheet itself.

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