Wieland F., Reimold W.U., Gibson R.L.
New observations on shatter cones in the Vredefort impact structure, South Africa, and evaluation of current hypotheses for shatter cone formation
Meteoritics and Planetary Science
Impact Cratering Research Group, School of Geosciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Private Bag 3, Wits 2050 Johannesburg, South Africa; Museum for Natural History (Mineralogy), Humboldt University, Invalidenstrasse 43, D-10115 Berlin, Germany
Wieland, F., Impact Cratering Research Group, School of Geosciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Private Bag 3, Wits 2050 Johannesburg, South Africa; Reimold, W.U., Impact Cratering Research Group, School of Geosciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Private Bag 3, Wits 2050 Johannesburg, South Africa, Museum for Natural History (Mineralogy), Humboldt University, Invalidenstrasse 43, D-10115 Berlin, Germany; Gibson, R.L., Impact Cratering Research Group, School of Geosciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Private Bag 3, Wits 2050 Johannesburg, South Africa
Shatter cones have been described from many meteorite impact structures and are widely regarded as a diagnostic macroscopic recognition feature for impact. However, the origin of this meso- to macroscopic striated fracture phenomenon has not yet been satisfactorily resolved, and the timing of shatter cone formation in the cratering process still remains enigmatic. Here, previous results from studies of shatter cones from the Vredefort impact structure and other impact structures are discussed in the light of new field observations made in the Vredefort Dome. Contrary to earlier claims, Vredefort cone fractures do not show uniform apex orientations at any given outcrop, nor do small cones show a pattern consistent with the previously postulated "master cone" concept. Simple back-rotation of impact-rotated strata to a horizontal pre-impact position also does not lead to a uniform centripetal-upward orientation of the cone apices. Striation patterns on the cone surfaces are variable, ranging from the typically diverging pattern branching off the cone apex to subparallel-to-parallel patterns on almost flat surfaces. Striation angles on shatter cones do not increase with distance from the center of the dome, as alleged in the literature. Instead, a range of striation angles is measured on individual shatter cones from a specific outcrop. New observations on small-scale structures in the collar around the Vredefort Dome confirm the relationship of shatter cones with subparallel sets of curviplanar fractures (so-called multipli-striated joint sets, MSJS). Pervasive, meter-scale tensile fractures cross-cut shatter cones and appear to have formed after the closely spaced MSJ-type fractures. The results of this study indicate that none of the existing hypotheses for the formation of shatter cones are currently able to adequately explain all characteristics of this fracturing phenomenon. Therefore, we favor a combination of aspects of different hypotheses that includes the interaction of elastic waves, as supported by numerical modeling results and which reasonably explains the variety of shatter cone shapes, the range of striation geometries and angles, and the relationship of closely spaced fracture systems with the striated surfaces. In the light of the currently available theoretical basis for the formation of shatter cones, the results of this investigation lead to the conclusion that shatter cones are tensile fractures and might have formed during shock unloading, after the passage of the shock wave through the target rocks. © The Meteoritical Society, 2006.
cratering; impact structure; meteorite; numerical model; shatter cone; striation; Africa; South Africa; Southern Africa; Sub-Saharan Africa