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Stop 18 at Ries

Where am I on the tour map?

Our last stop is not, in fact, outdoors. Now that we've seen the Ries structure in the field, we'll spend some time at the Center for Ries Crater and Impact Crater Research (ZERIN) in Nördlingen. One of the main highlights of ZERIN is the over 1 kilometer of drill core taken from the central basin of the Ries structure. As we've seen, this basin is completely filled by sediment so the only way of studying the impact rocks below is to drill a hole for samples from deep below.

The Center for Ries Crater and Impact Crater Research (ZERIN)
The Center for Ries Crater and Impact Crater Research (ZERIN)
Photo: G. Osinski, University of Western Ontario
Location: Town of Nördlingen, along the margin of the structure's "inner ring"
Scale: Height of the cliff is 3 meters

So far, the only suevite breccias we've seen have been from ejecta deposits. If we look at a cross-section of the Ries structure, we see that the center of the Ries structure is filled by about 300 meters of suevite, known as "crater suevite". In 1973, a group of scientists drilled into the center of the Ries structure, providing samples of this suevite.

Close-up of scientific drill core Nordlingen 1973
Close-up of scientific drill core Nördlingen 1973
Photo: G. Osinski, University of Western Ontario
Location: The Center for Ries Crater and Impact Crater Research (ZERIN) in Nördlingen
Scale: Diameter of the core is 12 centimeters

At first glance, this suevite looks very similar to the suevite we've seen in the various quarries, however, if we look more closely, there are some important differences. The most important thing is that there is a lot less impact glass in the crater suevite, and all the glass has been altered to clay. The glass was altered to clay during a period of hydrothermal activity, which occurred shortly after the Ries impact event. During this time, fluids flowed through the suevite, altering the glass. Hydrothermal systems that are active today, such as the one found at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, are typically associated with volcanically active regions on Earth. However, impact craters can also provide two of the most important components of a hydrothermal system, heat and water.

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