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High-resolution meteor exploration with tristatic radar methods

by Kero, Johan

Abstract (Summary)
A meteor observed with the naked eye is colloquially called a shooting star. The streak of light is generated by an extra-terrestrial particle, a meteoroid, entering the Earth’s atmosphere. The term meteor includes both luminosity detectable by optical means and ionization detectable by radar. The radar targets of meteor head echoes have the same motion as the meteoroids on their atmospheric flight and are relatively independent of aspect angle. They appear to be compact regions of plasma created at around 100 km altitude and have no appreciable duration.This thesis reviews the meteor head echo observations carried out with the tristatic 930 MHz EISCAT UHF radar system during four 24h runs between 2002 and 2005, and a 6h run in 2003 with the monostatic 224 MHz EISCAT VHF radar. It contains the first strong observational evidence of a submillimeter-sized meteoroid breaking apart into two distinct fragments. This discovery promises to be useful in the further understanding of the interaction processes of meteoroids with the Earth’s atmosphere and thus also the properties of interplanetary/interstellar dust.The tristatic capability of the EISCAT UHF system makes it a unique tool for investigating the physical properties of meteoroids and the meteor head echo scattering process. The thesis presents a method for determining the position of a compact radar target in the common volume of the antenna beams and demonstrates its applicability for meteor studies. The inferred positions of the meteor targets are used to estimate their velocities, decelerations, directions of arrival and radar cross sections (RCS) with unprecedented accuracy. The head echoes are detected at virtually all possible aspect angles all the way out to 130° from the meteoroid trajectory, limited by the antenna pointing directions. The RCS of individual meteors simultaneously observed with the three receivers are equal within the accuracy of the measurements with a very slight trend suggesting that the RCS decreases with increasing aspect angle.A statistical evaluation of the measurement technique shows that the determined Doppler velocity agrees with the target range rate. This demonstrates that no contribution from slipping plasma is detected and that the Doppler velocities are unbiased within the measurement accuracy. The velocities of the detected meteoroids are in the range of 19-70 km/s, but with very few detections at velocities below 30 km/s. The thesis compares observations with a numerical single-body ablation model, which simulates the physical processes during meteoroid flight through the atmosphere. The estimated meteoroid masses are in the range of 10-9 - 10-5.5 kg.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Umeå universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:TECHNOLOGY; Other technology; Space engineering; meteors; meteoroids; interplanetary dust; radar; head echoes; ablation; meteoroid fragmentation; radar; huvudekon; ablation; meteorisk fragmentation; meteorer; meteoroider; interplanetärt stoft

ISBN:978-91-977255-3-8

Date of Publication:01/01/2008

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