Hailar crater, a probable impact structure, is a circular depression about 300 m diameter in Inner Mongolia, northeast China. With broad elevated rims, the present rim-to-floor depth is 8–20 m. Regional geological background and geomorphological comparison suggest that this feature is likely not formed by surface processes such as salt diapir, karst, aeolian, glacial, or volcanic activity. Its unique occurrence in this region and well-preserved morphology are most consistent with it being a Cenozoic impact crater. Two field expeditions in 2016 and 2017 investigated the origin of this structure, recognizing that (1) no additional craters were identified around Hailar crater in the centimeter-scale digital topography models that were constructed using a drone imaging system and stereo photogrammetry; (2) no bedrock exposures are visible within or adjacent to the crater because of thick regolith coverage, and only small pieces of angular unconsolidated rocks are present on the crater wall and the gently-sloped crater rim, suggesting recent energetic formation of the crater; (3) most samples collected from the crater have identical lithology and petrographic characteristics with the background terrain, but some crater samples contain more abundant clasts and silicate hydrothermal veins, indicating that rocks from depths have been exposed by the crater; (4) no shock metamorphic features were found in the samples after thin section examinations; and (5) a systematic sample survey and iron detector scan within and outside of the crater found no iron-rich meteorites larger than ~2 cm in size in a depth of ~30 cm. Although no conclusive evidence for an impact origin is found yet, Hailar crater was most likely formed by an impact based on its unique occurrence and comparative geomorphologic study. We suggest that drilling in the crater center is required to verify the impact origin, where hypothesized melt-bearing impactites may be encountered.
Geomorphology – Elsevier
Published: Apr 1, 2018
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