Statistical and fragmentation properties of the micrometeoroid flux observed at Arecibo

S. J. Briczinski, J. D. Mathews, D. D. Meisel

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    15 Scopus citations


    The micrometeor observations performed using the 430 MHz Arecibo Observatory radar have proven to be crucial for the understanding of meteoric effects on the aeronomy of the upper atmosphere. Meteors observed during the February 2001, 2006, and 2007 campaigns have been analyzed with a fast Fourier transform periodic search algorithm that automatically and uniformly detects meteor events between altitudes of 80 and 142 km. We present a description of the new technique used to detect meteors as well as the meteoroid parameters: altitude profiles, radial speeds, and decelerations. We also note the expected correlation between the radar transmitted power and the observed meteor event rate. The large number of events has enabled us to statistically estimate the average mass density of the observed population indicating that our detected events are generally cometary (1 g/cm3) and not asteroidal (3 g/cm3) in origin. Additionally, many meteor events are observed in which the radar meteor disappears from one radar pulse to the next (i.e., in 1 ms). We interpret this as indicative of the catastrophic destruction of the meteoroid. Until destruction, these events appear to undergo only minor ablation of their volatile components over the observed trajectory. As with a major fraction of all events recorded, the meteoroids that disappear in a terminal event show linear decelerations before their abrupt disappearance. This apparently low ablative mass deposition process may play an important role in the composition (aeronomy) of the upper atmosphere, as it likely produces submicron-sized particles rather than the atom level products of ablation. First results on the altitude, speed, and mass distributions of terminal event meteoroids are given yielding some clues on the physics of the terminal event. Finally, the statistics of those events that yield no deceleration are compared statistically with those that exhibit deceleration with the conclusion that both groups are statistically the same. We further conclude that along with low signal-to-noise ratio and short echo duration, fragmentation of this group of particles is a primary cause of the inability to determine deceleration.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article numberA04311
    JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Apr 2009

    All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

    • Geophysics
    • Space and Planetary Science


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