Further evidence for an impact origin of the Tsenkher structure in the Gobi-Altai

Komatsu, G., Ormö, J., Bayaraa, T. et al. 2019. Further evidence for an impact origin of the Tsenkher structure in the Gobi-Altai, Mongolia: Geology of a 3.7 km crater with a well-preserved ejecta blanket. Geological Magazine, 156(1), 1-24. doi:10.1017/S0016756817000620

The Tsenkher structure in the Gobi-Altai, Mongolia is a c. 3.7 km diameter crater with a well-preserved ejecta blanket. It has been hypothesized to be either of impact or volcanic origin in our previous work. Observations during our 2007 expedition and related sample analyses give further support for an impact origin. The evidence includes the presence of a structurally uplifted near-circular rim surrounded by an ejecta blanket, and abundant breccias, some of which are melt- and millimetre-scale spherule-bearing. Planar deformation features (PDFs) were found in one quartz grain in a breccia sample. Fe-rich grains are found in a vesicular melt sample that is also characterized by elevated platinum group element (PGE) abundances with respect to the sedimentary bedrock of the area (approximately an order of magnitude). Noble gas analysis of one breccia sample yielded an elevated 3He/4He value of (5.0±0.2) × 10−6. Although not conclusive alone, these geochemical results are consistent with a contribution of meteoritic components. A volcanic origin, in particular a maar formation, would require explanations for the unusual conditions associated with Tsenkher, including its large size occurring in isolation, the structurally uplifted rim and the lack of a bedded base surge deposit. A pronounced rampart structure observed at the eastern ejecta is also unusual for any volcanic origin. 40Ar–39Ar dating of a vesicular melt sample gives an age of the Tsenkher structure of 4.9±0.9 Ma. The rampart structure could provide insights into the formation of similar ejecta morphologies associated with numerous impact craters on Mars.

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