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Prims: A possible Holocene meteorite impact near Nalbach, Saarland region, West Germany

New results (Update, October 2012)

by Werner Mller,
Since the first publication on the supposed impact in the Saarland region ( a year and a half have passed. Since that time, new findings and insights have been added to further strengthen the reality of such an event. To these belong two contributions of the author (W.M., together with two scientists from Stuttgart) to the Meteoritical Society meeting in Geenwich in the August a year ago. The respective abstracts may be clicked in the Internet: A POSSIBLE NEW IMPACT SITE NEAR NALBACH (SAARLAND, GERMANY) E. Buchner, W. Mller and M. Schmieder NALBACH (SAARLAND, GERMANY) AND WABAR (SAUDI ARABIA) GLASS TWO OF A KIND? M. Schmieder, W. Mller and E. Buchner As a result of the investigations the analysis of !-cristobalite in a so-called ballen texture within melt particles from the Nalbach field is especially emphasized. According to latest references !-cristobalite ballen texture is considered diagnostic of meteorite impact. Furthermore, these melt particles from Nalbach with regard to color, texture, composition and metallic inclusions strongly resemble impact glasses found in the Wabar, Saudi Arabia, meteorite crater strewn field, as well as in glasses from other impact structures. The metallic particles may be interpreted as fragmented and melted remnants of an iron meteorite, particularly as up to 10 wt% nickel and compositions resembling the meteoritic minerals taenite, troilite and schreibersite were analyzed. The remarkable parallelism of the Nalbach/Prims evidences with those of the Chiemgau impact which have already been spotlighted in the first Scribd article, as well as both abstract articles of the Greenwich meeting are addressed on the Chiemgau impact website The Chiemgau meteorite impact event also in the Saarland (West Germany) region? which may be clicked here: Recent finds near the town of Nalbach signalize a completely new parallelism of both the Chiemgau and the supposed Nalbach impact. It is the peculiar carbon matter that widely occurs in the crater strewn field of this very young meteorite impact in southeast Bavaria (Fig. 1) and that is currently analyzed in the Laboratory for Diamond Mineralogy, Geological Institute, Komi Science Center, Russian Academy of Science, in Syktyvkar. Meanwhile, two contributions dealing with these investigations have been presented to reputable meetings

-- 43. Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC), 19. 23. Mrz 2012, The Woodlands, Texas, USA -- First European Mineralogical Conference 2-6 September 2012 Frankfurt, Germany the abstracts and posters of which may be downloaded: LPSC The Woodlands ABSTRACT, POSTER EMC Frankfurt ABSTRACT POSTER The material mostly composed of glass-like carbon contains specific carbon allotropes (carbynes, diamond-like carbon [DLC]. It is considered an entirely new impact rock (impactite) that in the Chiemgau region has been termed chiemite as a working name. Its formation requires extreme temperatures and pressures. Macroscopically practically identical matter has now been identified and sampled by the author (W.M.) also in the area of the supposed Nalbach impact rocks and impact glasses, and very similar shapes and internal textures occur (Fig. 2, 3)

Fig. 1. Do they belong together? The Chiemgau impact and the supposed Nalbach/Prims impact.

Fig. 2. Chiemite samples from the meteorite crater strewn field of the Chiemgau impact.

Fig. 3. Probable chiemite from the Nalbach/Prims region.

Notably, the chiemite from the Nalbach field is found also integrated into glasses and melt breccias (Fig. 4, Fig. 5).

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Fig. 4. Nalbach/Prims: monomictic breccia with chiemite particle (a) and black glass (b) in a glass matrix (c).

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Fig. 5. Nalbach/Prims: chiemite fragment fused in gray fine-grained, non-recrystallized glass.

Unlike the Chiemgau impact, the up to now field inspections have given no evidence of clear crater structures in the Nalbach region. As already remarked in the first article the lack of craters may be explained by a young alluvial overprint in the depression of the Prims valley or, on the other hand, by special conditions in the process of the proposed impact event. For example, a near-surface large explosion of the cosmic projectile (airburst) could have happened. Even in the Chiemgau impact event there is evidence that some craters with indication of extreme heating were not formed by a hitting impactor but originated from an enormous explosion near the earth's surface.

New images of old and new finds

Next up a compilation of images that demonstrate the remarkable parallelisms between the findings in the Chiemgau impact region and the Nalbach supposed impact area, and one is surprised to state that there are 500 km distance between both sites at least. There is yet an important item when hereinafter findings of both sites are shown to reveal a nearly complete correspondence. This does not aim to construe any proof for whatever genesis. It is intended to point to quite similar processes of formation and, because of identical state of preservation/weathering, to a similar passage of time in both cases during the Holocene. It is additionally noted that the geological setting in both areas is similar. Thus, in the Nalbach region Quaternary deposits (loam, fluvial sand and gravel terraces, debris), beside Rotliegend and Buntsandstein sediments, are prevailing in size. Hence, the relationship of observations is more easily understood since similar processes should lead to similar products when similar source material is concerned. There is one more item common to both sites in the Saarland region and in southeast Bavaria. Both were colonized in early times, and both have been industrial locations for a long time, and this is why (as has already been stated in the first Scribd article on the supposed Nalbach impact) a certain caution is indicated with regard to the interpretation of melt products of all kinds, because in an impact event products may result that are superficially quite similar like ones accruing with smelting and glass works.

Aerodynamically shaped glasses from the Nalbach and Chiemgau sites

Fig. 6 and Fig. 7 show in each case a handful of pieces of black glass looking a spitting image of each other with regard to superficies (Figs. 8, 9) and internal texture (Figs. 10, 11). Tektitelike glasses of this kind are known from, e.g., the Zhamanshin impact structure (irgizites) [1][2] and the Wabar meteorite crater strewn field [3].

Fig. 6. Aerodynamically shaped glasses from the Nalbach area. Field width is 7 cm.

Fig. 7. Aerodynamically shaped glasses from the Chiemgau region. Field width is 7 cm.

Fig. 8. Individual pieces from Figs. 6, 7 showing quite similar sculpture for the Nalbach glass (upper) and the Chiemgau glass (lower). Suchlike forms exhibiting flow structures possibly from contortion in a plastic condition are known also from Zhamanshin irgizites and from real tektites.

Fig. 9. The end fractures of the glasses shown in Fig. 8 reveal identical internal texture.

Aggregates of spherulitic texture

Upon first sight of the samples in Fig. 10 the impression is: industry, anthropogenic expanded clay or something like this. However, there is much to be said for a natural formation. The left sample in Fig. 10 is from the Nalbach area and can be picked up from the fields however rarely. The pellets have diameters of about 0.5 - 2 mm and are composed of a finestgrained black matter that is coated by a white carbonate shell (Fig. 11, to the left). There is no matrix; the pellets are sticking together via the carbonate material. Under the microscope the black matter is opaque and probably something carbon type. There is a direct relationship to the so-called carbon spherules that are common in the Chiemgau impact strewn field even in the subsoil and concentrated in smaller craters (Fig. 12, to the left). These spherules have attracted the attention of the Chiemgau impact researchers early on, they have been established in the soil as far away as Belgium and are considered a possible fallout of the Chiemgau impact. Analyses of the matter have yielded nano-diamonds among others (Yang et al. 2008). In the meantime these spherules have been extracted also from the soil near Nalbach. An identity with regard to composition must remain open for the time being, however. Because of the close similarity it is standing to reason that the aggregate in Fig. 10, left, is composed of such carbon spherules.

Fig. 10. Aggregates of spherulitic texture. Field width 4 cm.

In Fig. 10 an aggregate of spherulitic texture from the Chiemgau area is put side by side with the carbonaceous Nalbach sample. In contrast the particles are composed of glass with a pumice texture, and a pure sphericity (Fig. 11, to the right) is rather scarce. The particles are embedded in a fine-sandy, carbonate matrix. The general context is given by the fact that the embedded pumice-like spherules (Fig. 10, to the right) like the carbon spherules occur also as individuals (Fig. 11, to the right). The conformity of texture is remarkable and an anthropogenic origin of the aggregate in Fig. 10 rather unlikely, since the singular spherule has been extracted from a Chiemgau impact layer at 1 m depth.

Fig. 11. Broken spherules embedded in the carbonaceous (Nalbach) and the glassbearing (Chiemgau) aggregate.

Fig. 12. Left: carbon spherules, entire and fractured, from the soil at 40 cm depth in the Chiemgau impact area. Right: individual glass spherule with pumice texture (3 mm diameter) from the Chiemgau impact catastrophic layer encountered in the ChiemingStttham archeological excavation (Neumair et al. 2010). 9

Referring to the spherules there is one more linkage between the Chiemgau and Nalbach areas, since apart from the singular pumice-like spherules there are real finds of pumice (Fig. 13), and these finds in turn have counterparts in the Nalbach region (Fig. 14). The close-up in Fig. 15 points to the similarity of the pumice textures, and even on grain slide under the microscope a comparable composition of ground glass particles and, subordinately, content of minute mineral grains like quartz, mica and carbonate aggregates is observed. The Chiemgau pumice, in particular anthropogenic similar formations and possible imports from volcanic areas (Italy, Volcanic Eifel) are addressed on [4]. Pumice from impact structures is well known [references on [4]).

Fig. 13. Pumice from Lake Chiemsee, Chiemgau impact area.

Fig. 14. Pumice from the Nalbach area. Compared to the Chiemgau pumice it is somewhat more inhomogeneous and larger-pored.


Fig. 15. Nalbach and Chiemgau pumice in close-up. Both samples show quite similar texture.

Vitrified cobbles
A characteristic feature in the Nalbach supposed impact area are for the most part quartzitic cobbles which are coated by glass and which have perfect counterparts in the field of the Chiemgau impact (Fig. 16). More about the Chiemgau vitrified cobbles can be read on [5].

Fig. 16. Vitrified cobbles; images to the left: Nalbach; to the right: Chiemgau impact.


Fig. 17. Vitrified cobbles (quartzitic rock each) from Nalbach (to the left) and from the Chiemgau impact area. The similarity of the glass formation at both sites is even expressed by quite similar color variants (Fig. 17), and both occurrences have in common that the outside vitrification is extremely thin and only a fraction of a millimeter in many cases (Fig. 18). That has to be interpreted as the result of extremely strong and extremely short-term heat build-up or of thermal evaporation of the cobble with the glass material, which could be shown by an analysis.

Fig. 18. Nalbach: The fracture of the cobble shown in Fig. 17 (left) demonstrates how thin the glass coating is, which also applies to the vitrified cobbles from the Chiemgau impact area. As for the glass-filled fissure see the text.

The glass filling the open fissure (Fig. 18) is connected to the glass shell and must have been injected from the outside as melt or vapor also in a very short time. The increasing narrowing of the fissure indicates that the fracture moved from right to left providing the path for the melt or the rock vapor, respectively.


Fig. 19. Chiemgau impact for comparison: glass-filled fissures in a quartzitic cobble; sawed surface. The edges of the open fissures fitting perfectly (arrows) prove the tensile character of the fracturing. Like in Fig. 18, the larger fissures are narrowing.

Little surprising by now, the vitrified cobble from the Chiemgau impact area reveals the same features as are the open glass-filled fissures, and even the narrowing of several of them occurs (Fig. 19). These observations are important, because they may be a key feature for a shock load in an impact event, which has already been discussed for the Chiemgau impact [6]. The keyword is spallation, and in the first Nalbach article this peculiarity has already been addressed. Spallation describes the effect that the shock compression wave is reflected at the free surface of a cobble as a practically equipollent tensile wave. This tensile wave puts strong tensile stress onto the cobble leading to the observed open fissures. The tensile pulse must have been extremely short, because the propagating fracture came to standstill within the cobble not severing it. At the same time the suddenly emerging negative pressure could have imbibed rock melt or rock vapor. Hence, a tectonic origin of the fissures can basically be excluded, as is the case for any furnace process.


Fig. 20. Nalbach: glass-filled tensile fractures in quartzitic cobbles; sawed surfaces. Note also here the fissures often narrowing from the surface which document the direction of fracture propagation and the injection of the melt or the rock vapor.

The open fissure in Fig. 18 is not an isolated case as is seen in Fig. 20. Four vitrified sawed cobbles from the Nalbach area show interior glass-filled tensile fissures, and the systematic narrowing doesn't go without notice likewise. The observation of these obvious spallation phenomena is a substantial argument for a very short-term dynamic load that cobbles from the Nalbach area have experienced, and momentarily there is no natural alternative to a shock event in a meteorite impact


Fig. 21. The vitrified cobble from Fig. 17 and one more comparison with a vitrified cobble from the Chiemgau impact area - front and rear each. The succession of mechanical load by shock and unloading with fracturing and subsequent vitrification is indicated by the fact that also the freshly fractured surfaces are completely vitrified.

The supposed parallelism for shock event and subsequent extreme heating and glass formation in the Chiemgau impact and Nalbach areas is additionally supported when the fractured cobbles shown in Fig. 21 are compared. Even die fracture planes exhibit vitrification suggesting a succession of mechanical and thermal load. Moreover, two consecutive phases of differing glass formation at both sites can be observed (Fig. 22).


Fig. 22. Two phases of glass formation: black, glassy melt chunk attached to the greenish-white vitrification shell of a cobble. To the Left: Nalbach; to the right: Chiemgau impact.

Melt breccias and other breccias

Already in the first Nalbach article various monomictic and polymictic breccias, frequently with a glass matrix, have been presented, and there are also absolute parallels to the Chiemgau crater strewn field as e.g. shown in Fig. 23.

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Fig. 23. Monomictic melt breccia composed of quartzitic fragments in a glass matrix. Upper: Chiemgau impact (freshly fractured surface); lower: Nalbach (sawed surface). 16

Fig. 24. Nalbach: polymictic breccia composed of rock fragments and glass particles. If shock effects can be verified (see Fig. 25) the breccia by definition could be termed a suevite. Image is 5 cm wide.

Fig. 25. Quartz grain from a sandstone particle of the breccia in Fig 24 on grain slide under the microscope exhibiting two sets of planar deformation which may be shockproduced planar deformation features (PDFs). Plane polarized light.

As for the Nalbach area the breccia in Fig. 24 composed of rock fragments and glass particles is remarkable. From a sandstone component quartz grains were extracted for a polarizing 17

microscope analysis and to be tested for mineralogical indications of a shock event. Thus, the grain in Fig. 25 shows two sets of well-developed planar elements. For the time being it must remain open whether we are dealing with true so-called planar deformation features (PDFs) that are diagnostic of shock and impact

Melt breccias with rock and metallic components

One more comparable feature of the Chiemgau impact and Nalbach areas is shown in Fig. 26 concerning a melt breccia that contains rock particles and metallic inclusions in a black glass matrix. An analysis of these metallic particles and a possible relationship to the earlier analyzed iron-meteoritic components (see the very beginning of this article) is yet to come. Meanwhile, the analysis of a metallic inclusion in another Nalbach glass sample has featured evidence of iron silicides the investigation of which is kept doing. Iron silicides as supposed cosmic matter are playing an important role in the context of the Chiemgau impact event (e.g., Hiltl et al. 2011).

Fig. 26 Rock particles (x) and metallic inclusions (arrows) in a glass matrix. Upper: Nalbach; lower: Chiemgau impact. 18

Discussion and conclusions

Following the first Nalbach article and according to current understanding, a meteorite impact crater (or impact structure) is considered established if there are a few criteria fulfilled which are repeated here. Apart from the direct observation of the fall of the meteorite (as happened in 2007 with the Carancas meteorite in Peru to produce a c. 13 m crater), the find of meteorites that survived vaporization of the projectile upon hypervelocity contact with the target, and the identification of shock metamorphism and other shock effects (e.g., shatter cones) in rocks and minerals are most crucial. Less compelling are the find of other highpressure and high-temperature signature, conspicuous breccias, unusual rock deformations, geophysical anomalies, and special evidence of unusual geologic phenomena. In the present Nalbach case a meteorite impact can't still be brought to clear and unambiguous proof although the evidence has considerably be strengthened. The mineralogical indications of probable shock and the observations of shock spallation of many cobbles do not leave many doubts any longer. It is once more emphasized that the numerous peculiar identical features found in the Chiemgau area are not considered a proof for the reality of a Nalbach impact though there are only a small number of opponents of the Chiemgau impact left, an event that internationally is widely accepted. The identical findings are presented to show that obviously most similar processes at a related time took place. Once finally and independently the impact for the Nalbach area should prove well-founded, then it could be interesting and important to take an immediate coincidence of a much extended impact event into consideration. For the time being, the investigations of the Nalbach area continue, and meanwhile more additional finds are being analyzed the results of which will be reported in good time.

Acknowledgements. I can only repeat the acknowledgements from the first article that as a
local history researcher without advanced knowledge of geosciences I deeply appreciate the active support from local and regional geologists and mineralogists (Dr. Friedwalt Weber, Dr. Michael Morbe). I again thank Prof. Dr. Kord Ernstson for joint field work, stimulating discussion and the help with performing the article.

For reasons of simplicity the references list of the first article is adopted unchanged although in the text not all citations are referred to. Numbered references which may be clicked in the web are labeled first.


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