The Canyon Diablo meteorite

Research paper by Gennady P. Vdovykin

Indexed on: 01 Jul '73Published on: 01 Jul '73Published in: Space Science Reviews


The giant diamond-containing Canyon Diablo meteorite is in composition a typical representative of the widespread group of iron meteorites — the coarse octahedrites. But it is unique in a number of scientifically important aspects. When it fell, it formed the Arizona (Barringer meteorite) crater (1220 m in diam), which is of the explosive type. The investigations of the shock recrystallization of the crater rocks and the meteoritic material are of importance for planetology, and in particular for the eludication of matter recrystallization conditions during the collisions of large cosmic bodies. The study of the diamonds contained in the Canyon Diablo meteorite is of importance to various branches of carbon cosmochemistry.The Canyon Diablo meteorite fell in Arizona, U.S.A., some tens of thousands years ago. However, the Arizona meteorite crater is well preserved owing to the semi-arid climatic conditions. Signs of shock recrystallization of the rocks — shatter cones, impactites, dense and super-dense silica modifications were revealed in the Arizona meteorite crater. Around the crater many samples of the Canyon Diablo iron meteorite have been found (at distances of up to 9 km from the crater), together with a great amount of finely dispersed meteorite matter. The total weight of the material attributed to the meteorite is put at 30 tons. A number of meteorite fragments have been oxidized to different degrees during terrestrial weathering.Typical samples of the Canyon Diablo meteorite are represented by coarse octahedrite matter with kamacite band widths of 1.8–2.2 mm. In many meteorite fragments, especially the fragments found on the crater rim, the Widmanstätten pattern has been destroyed as a result of the explosion which occurred when the meteorite hit the Earth. The meteorite is rich in accessory minerals (cohenite, schreibersite, troilite.). The Ni content is, in typical samples of the meteorite, about 7.16%, in rare, atypical, medium octahedrite samples the Ni content reached 8.2 %. In the content of trace elements the meteorite may be classified with the I Ga-Ge group. In the content of stable isotopes of elements there is no substantial difference between the Canyon Diablo meteorite and other octahedrites. Radioactive cosmogenic isotopes are represented by isotopes with a large half-life.The diamonds in the Canyon Diablo meteorite are unevenly distributed and are found inside the highly recrystallized meteorite fragments at the rim of the crater. Diamonds are present in the form of intergrowths of microcrystals, crystallite sizes are < 1μ, the sizes of the intergrowths reach 2–5 mm. Admixtures of graphite and the hexagonal diamond lonsdaleite are present in the intergrowths.From the evidence of shock recrystallization of the meteorite matter it would seem that the diamond containing fragments of the Canyon Diablo meteorite have undergone shock pressures of from 400 kbar to 1 mgbar at impact, at these pressures the diamonds would crystallise. The diamond-containing sample of the Canyon Diablo meteorite investigated by the author has experienced a shock pressure of up to 1 mgbar during the explosion.