About 36 million years ago in northern Siberia, a
large asteroid impacted the Siberian platform to form
a crater 100 km in diameter filled with melted and
shocked material that included shock-generated impact
71°38’N 111°11’E - crater center
North Central Siberia about 100 km from the coast
of the Laptev Sea, an embayment of the Arctic Ocean.
Late Eocene - 35.7 (± 0.2) million years [by
stepwise heating Ar-Ar].
Impact occurred at the Precambrian-Phanerozoic contact
on the northeast flank of the Anabar Shield.
Basement of Archean graphite-bearing gneisses.
A simple homoclinal layer of sedimentary rocks, about
1500 m thick, consisting of platform sandstones and
carbonates of Proterozoic, Cambrian, and Permo-Triassic
Probably an ordinary chondrite, about 8 km diameter,
3.5 g/cm3, with a trajectory 210o -220o. Such a body,
with a velocity of about 20 km/s, would deposit about
1.7 x 1023 J of energy [Masaitis].
Use of Melosh's cratering program back-calculates
a stony asteroid impactor slightly less than 5.0 km
The crater is 100 km diameter, as measured by the
extent of deformation of bedrock by thrusting.
The geophysical signatures of the structure are a
magnetic low and a gravity low with a central gravity
The crater is filled with 2-2½ km of suevite
[75%] and melt rock [tagamite] [25%].
The crater floor has a low topographic high in the
center of a central basin, with an outer synform-antiform.
The impact created:
shatter cones in Archean gneisses
PDFs [planar deformation features]
lechatelierite and diaplectic glasses
coesite and stishovite [polymorphs, or high-pressure
forms, of quartz].
Shock pressures instantaneously transformed graphite
to diamond within 13.6 km of ground zero.
Popigai is a world-class impact structure that is
well preserved and well exposed, providing a good
view of impact structures and rocks and permitting
access to internal materials. Three other craters
are larger, but they are either buried [Chicxulub],
strongly deformed [Sudbury], or deformed and severely
eroded [Vredefort]. The exposures and preservation
at Popigai permit a detailed account of the impact
mechanisms to be interpreted [see Impact Scenario
Popigai may represent one of two or three simultaneous
impacts. The 35.7 (± 0.2) Ma date precedes
the 35.2-35.5 Ma Chesapeake Bay impact and the same-age
Toms Canyon impacts, but the error bars do not preclude
Popigai precedes the 33.7 Ma Oligocene/Eocene boundary.
The 35.7 ± 0.2 Ma date corresponds to the 35.7
Ma Ir and PDF quartz layer at Missignano, Italy, the
stratotype section for the Eocene/Oligocene boundary.
A probable sequence of events in the formation of
the Popigai impact structure would include:
A transient cavity about 8-10 km deep was excavated
through the 1.5-km-thick sedimentary rock cover and
into the Archean graphite-garnet gneisses
Peak pressure was about 624 GPa
Impactor and surrounding target rocks were vaporized
a vapor plume and vapor-melt cloud were ejected
99% of the impactor was vaporized and 1% was incorporated
About 1750 km3 of molten rock formed, about half of
it was ejected
Shock metamorphism created shatter cones, PDFs, coesite
and stishovite, and diaplectic glasses
Shock pressures transformed graphite to diamond within
13.6 km of ground zero
[A fraction of a second has elapsed]
Bedrock was shattered into blocks that were forced
downward, outward, and upward, at supersonic speeds,
to form the allogenic breccias
Fusion of gneiss formed sheets of meltrock [precursor
of the tagamite] that covered most of the cavity/crater
floor and flowed radially out to form annular ridges
and streams of meltrock into and over the allogenic
Explosion cloud of fragmental ejecta, vapor, and melt
[similar to a pyroclastic flow] formed suevite almost
simultaneously with tagamite flows
Rebound of cavity floor into a central peak squeezed
melt layers into upper layers of suevites and possibly
to the surface as flows
Subsidence of central peak formed annular rings [antiform
and synform pair], thus creating a peak-ring complex
crater or a multi-ring crater
Ejected blocks fall at least 70 km beyond the crater;
some diamonds were blown 150 km to the east
Centrifugal bottom-flow material of allogenic breccia
and tagamite sheets overtaken by suevite clouds and
material intimately mixed
[Probably minutes have elapsed]
Fallback of condensed volatilized material, mixed
with fine fragmental ejecta, probably formed a surface
blanket of material that was subsequently removed
Tagamites up to 600 m thick may have required thousands
of years to cool
Crater was filled to a shallow depth by Neogene-Quaternary