Two Strengths of Ordinary Chondritic Meteoroids as Derived from their Atmospheric Fragmentation ModelingOPEN ACCESS 

Jiří Borovička, Pavel Spurný, Lukáš Shrbený

Accepted for publication in AJ


“The internal structure and strength of small asteroids and large meteoroids is poorly known. Observation of bright fireballs in the Earth’s atmosphere can prospect meteoroid structure by studying meteoroid fragmentation during the flight. Earlier evaluations showed that meteoroid strength is significantly lower than that of the recovered meteorites. We present detailed study of atmospheric fragmentation of seven meteorite falls, all ordinary chondrites, and 14 other fireballs, where meteorite fall was predicted but the meteorites, probably also ordinary chondrites, were not recovered. All observations were made by the autonomous observatories of the European Fireball Network and include detailed radiometric light curves. A model, called the semi-empirical fragmentation model, was developed to fit the light curves and decelerations. Videos showing individual fragments were available in some cases. The results demonstrated that meteoroids do not fragment randomly but in two distinct phases. The first phase typically corresponds to low strengths of 0.04 – 0.12 MPa. In 2/3 of cases, the first phase was catastrophic or nearly catastrophic with at least 40% of mass lost. The second phase corresponds to 0.9 – 5 MPa for confirmed meteorite falls and to somewhat lower strengths, from about 0.5 MPa for smaller meteoroids. All these strengths are lower than tensile strengths of ordinary chondritic meteorites cited in the literature, 20 – 40 MPa. We interpret the second phase as being due by cracks in meteoroids and the first phase as separation of weakly cemented fragments, which reaccumulated at surfaces of asteroids after asteroid collisions. “