46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (2015)
SPHERULE FROM LONAR CRATER, INDIA. D. Ray1 , S. Misra2, H. Newsom3 and D. Upadhyay4,
PLANEX, Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad 380009, India ([email protected]), 2SAEES, University of
KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 4000, South Africa ([email protected]), Institute of Meteoritics and Department of Earth
and Planetary Sciences MSC03 2050, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA
([email protected]), 4Department of Geology and Geophysics, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur 721302,
India ([email protected]).
Introduction: The ~50 or 570 ka old Lonar crater,
India (19o59/N, 76o31/E), was formed on a basaltic
target belonging to the Deccan Traps (~65 Ma) by an
oblique impact of a chondritic meteorite from the east
[1-5]. After more than four decays of search, three
different types of impact spherules e.g. mm- and submm sized impact spherules [2, 6], and a sub-mm sized
mantled lapilli [7], were identified from the ejecta
blanket around the crater. However, detailed major and
trace element analyses are available only for the mmsized spherule at present [6, 8]. In this report, we
present the major and detailed trace element
compositions of the sub-mm sized spherule to evaluate
the possible impact-induced chemical process(es)
operated during the Lonar impact.
Analytical Techniques: The major and minor
element analyses of the Lonar spherules were carried
out using an Electron Probe Micro Analyzer with
wavelength dispersive spectrometers (CAMECA SX
100) at Physical Research Laboratory, India [8]. In
situ trace element analyses of the sub-mm sized
spherule were done on a LA-ICP-MS at the
Department of Geology and Geophysics, Indian
Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India, using a
Cetac 213 nm Nd-YAG laser ablation system coupled
to a Varian 820 quadrupole ICP-MS. The ablation
parameters used were the following: 10 Hz pulse
frequency, 60 µm spot size and 730 V energy. The
analyses were performed in time-resolved peak
hopping mode with each analysis consisting of a 20 s
background measurement with the laser turned off and
40 s peak signal measurement with the laser turned on.
External standardization was done by bracketing
groups of eight unknowns with two measurements of
the NIST 612 reference glass. Data was reduced using
the Glitter© software using Ca as an internal standard.
Analyitcal results: The population of sub-mm
sized Lonar spherule under investigation are mostly
melt-rich, however, both the melt- and magnetite-rich
varieties were reported earlier [2]. These samples are
also homogeneous and devoid of xenocrysts (Fig. 1).
Both the mm- and sub-mm sized Lonar impact
spherules are characteristically depleted in Na2O (~0.30.5 times respectively) and P2O5 (~0.3-0.6 and 0.2-0.4
times) compared to those values in the target basalt.
Additionally the sub-mm sized spherule has relatively
higher average Fe2O3T and MnO (~1.2 times),
marginally lower Na2O (~0.8), and variable K2O (~0.71.9) as compared to those values in the mm-sized
Fig. 1. BSE image of Lonar sub-mm spherule, note
homogeneous, almost vesicle-free glassy spherule without
any xenocrystic component.
The average incompatible trace element
composition of the Lonar sub-mm sized spherule is
compared with those of target-basalt, impact-melt
bomb and mm-sized spherules in figure 2. Among
these elements, only Rb shows maximum variation in
abundance (RSD: 41%), followed by U (RSD: 26%).
The variability of rest of the trace elements are within
±5%. The sub-mm sized impact spherule has average
incompatible trace element composition similar to that
of the target basalt except that the former is marginally
depleted in U and Zr. The average Lonar impact-melt
bomb and mm-sized impact spherule are relatively
enriched in Rb, Ba, Th, U, La, Ce and Zr compared to
those in the target basalt.
Individual spot analyses on the Lonar sub-mm
sized spherules (n=7) show very restricted variations in
incompatible trace element proportions except for Rb,
U and Pb, and the spidergrams involving these
elements have (Ba/Lu)N between 2.95 and 3.39 with an
average=3.10 (standard deviation=0.15). Compositionally, core and rim of the sub-mm sized spherules
are indistinguishable in terms of incompatible trace
element chemistry. The studied samples show
variations in Rb from ~0.5 to 5 times to that in the
chondrite, slightly positive to moderately negative U
anomaly (U/U* ~0.5-1.17), both positive to strongly
negative anomalies for Pb (Pb/Pb* ~0.06-2.30), and
negative anomaly for Sr (Sr/Sr*~0.58-0.60).
In terms of compatible trace element composition,
the average sub-mm sized spherule is distinctly
46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (2015)
enriched in Cr (~ 8 times), Co (~ 7 times) and Ni (~12
times) over the target basalt (Fig. 3), while the target
basalt, impact-melt bomb and mm-sized spherule share
similar average compositions.
Chondrite Normalised
Target basalt
mm-sized spherule
Sub-mm sized spherule
Rb Ba Th U Nb La Ce Pr Sr Nd Zr Hf Sm Eu Gd Tb Dy Y Ho Er Tm Yb Lu
Fig. 2. Chondrite normalized average incompatible trace
element spidergrams of Lonar target basalt and impactites.
Inset shows variations in element concentrations in %RSD.
Target basalt
Impact-melt bomb
Chondrite Normalised
mm-sized spherule
Sub-mm sized spherule
Fig. 3 Chondrite normalized average compatabile trace
element spidergrams of Lonar basalt and impactites.
Discussion: Among the Lonar impactites, the submm sized spherules are only significantly enriched in
FeOT (~ 0.2 times over the target basalt), MnO (~0.3
times), MgO (~ 0.1 times), and Cr (~ 6 times), Co (~ 2
times) and Ni (~10 times) (Fig. 3) confirming
fractionation of impactor asteroid components only
within this variety of impactite [2, 8]. The sub-mm
sized spherule has the lowest K2O among the Lonar
impactites, and are also equally depleted in Na2O and
P2O5 suggesting significant loss of volatiles from their
parent liquid droplets during their formation. The
condensation temperature of K close to ~1001oK [9]
constrains the lower temperature limit of formation of
these spherules. The predominance of schlieren and
nearly absence of vesicles in the sub-mm sized
spherules [2] further suggest relatively low viscosity of
their parent liquid droplets, confirming relatively
higher temperature of their formation.
The reason for the fractionation of the impactor
components between the smaller and larger sized
impact glasses is not yet fully understood [10-12]. It
has been suggested that this fractionation could be
related to air burst mechanism [13, 14]. An alternative
hypothesis is that the impact plume generated
immediately after the Lonar impact gradually became
inhomogeneous in terms of impactor components and
temperature during its expansion at the end of the
excavation stage of formation of the crater [8]. The
central plume close to its top became relatively hot and
impactor component-rich, whereas the peripheral
plume was relatively cool and depleted in impactor
components. Relatively high temperature of formation
and high concentration of impactor components within
the sub-mm sized spherules confirm that these
spherules were formed within the hot central part of
the plume, whereas the morphochemistry of the mmsized impact spherule and impact-melt bomb suggest
that these impactities solidified within the peripheral
plume, which was devoid of impactor components and
had relatively lower temperature.
It was suggested before that the groundwater
underlying the Lonar crater was heated by remnant
impact energy and could have resulted post-impact
hydrothermal activity [15]. Following studies on drill
core impact breccias from the base of this crater also
supported this hypothesis [16]. Further studies on
Lonar ejecta [17] and the basalt flows from the base of
the Lonar crater [18] also suggest evidences of
hydrothermal activity in and around the Lonar crater.
Our data shows that the sub-mm sized Lonar spherules
shows a very restricted incompatible trace element
chemistry (Fig. 2). However, they display significant
variations in the concentration of Pb and U. These
elements tend to be mobile in oxidizing hydrothermal
fluids, providing further evidence of the possibility of
impact-induced hydrothermal activity in and around
the Lonar crater. Further studies are in progress.
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