Popigai impact ejecta layer and extraterrestrial spinels recovered in a new Italian location—The Monte Vaccaro section (Marche Apennines, Italy)

Samuele Boschi, Birger Schmitz, Fredrik Terfelt, Linus Ros, Mikael Elfman, Per Kristiansson, Camilla Sulas, Simonetta Monechi, Alessandro Montanari

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter

1 Citation (SciVal)


The Popigai (100 km in diameter) and the Chesapeake Bay (40–85 km diameter) impact structures formed within ~10–20 k.y. in the late Eocene during a 2 m.y. period with enhanced flux of 3He-rich interplanetary dust to Earth. Ejecta from the Siberian Popigai impact structure have been found in late Eocene marine sediments at numerous deep-sea drilling sites around the globe and also in a few marine sections outcropped on land, like the Massignano section near Ancona in Italy. In the Massignano section, the Popigai layer is associated with an iridium anomaly, shocked quartz, and abundant clinopyroxene-bearing (cpx) spherules, altered to smectite and flattened to “pancake spherules.” The ejecta are also associated with a significant enrichment of H-chondritic chromite grains (>63 µm), likely representing unmelted fragments of the impactor. The Massignano section also contains abundant terrestrial chrome-spinel grains, making reconstructions of the micrometeorite flux very difficult. We therefore searched for an alternative section that would be more useful for these types of studies. Here, we report the discovery of such a section, and also the first discovery of the Popigai ejecta in another locality in Italy, the Monte Vaccaro section, 90 km west of Ancona. The Monte Vaccaro section biostratigraphy was established based on calcareous nannoplankton, which allowed the identification of a sequence of distinct bioevents showing a good correlation with the Massignano section. In both the Monte Vaccaro and Massignano sections, the Popigai ejecta layer occurs in calcareous nannofossil zone CNE 19. The ejecta layer in the Monte Vaccaro section contains shocked quartz, abundant pancake spherules, and an iridium anomaly of 700 ppt, which is three times higher than the peak Ir measured in the ejecta layer at Massignano. In a 105-kg-size sample from just above the ejecta layer at Monte Vaccaro, we also found an enrichment of H-chondritic chromite grains. Because of its condensed nature and low content of terrestrial spinel grains, the Monte Vaccaro section holds great potential for reconstructions of the micrometeorite flux to Earth during the late Eocene using spinels.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication250 Million Years of Earth History in Central Italy: Celebrating 25 Years of the Geological Observatory of Coldigioco
EditorsChristian Koeberl, David M. Bice
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Sep 11

Publication series

NameSpecial Paper of the Geological Society of America
PublisherGeological Society of America
ISSN (Print)0072-1077

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Geology


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