Meteoroid Structure and FragmentationOPEN ACCESS
Margaret D. Campbell-Brown
Preprint submitted to Planetary and Space Science
“The physical composition and structure of meteoroids gives us insight into the formation processes of their parent asteroids and comets. The strength of and fundamental grain sizes in meteoroids tell us about the environment in which small solar system bodies formed, and the processes which built up these basic planetary building blocks. The structure of meteorites can be studied directly, but the set of objects which survive entry through the atmosphere is biased toward large, strong objects with slow encounter speeds. Fragile objects, small objects and objects with high relative speeds are very unlikely to survive impact with the atmosphere. Objects between 100 microns and 1 meter, which are not strong enough to survive the ablation process, must be studied by radar or optical methods.
Large meteoroids, which produce bright fireballs, are generally studied by investigating their compressive strength when they fragment, and their strength can also be inferred indirectly from their end heights.
Fragmentation in faint meteors can be inferred from interference in radar observations, or observed directly with high-resolution optical systems. Meteor light curves, begin heights and time-evolving spectra can also be used to infer meteoroid structure.
This paper presents a review of the meteor observation methods currently used to infer the structure and fragmentation of meteoroids in the millimeter to meter size range, and the current state of understanding these observations have given us.”