Fragmentation model and strewn field estimation for meteoroids entryOPEN ACCESS 

S. Limonta, M. Trisolini, S. Frey, C. Colombo

In Press, Journal Pre-proof, Available online 24 May 2021


Update (1 June 2021): PDF (OPEN ACCESS)


• Novel probabilistic model of asteroid breakup based on NASA Standard Breakup Model.
• Density-based methodology applied to meteoroid atmospheric entry and impact.
• Comparison against Monte Carlo simulations for a relevant test case scenario.
• Application of the model to the 2008TC3 fragmentation event.”

“Everyday thousands of meteoroids enter the Earth’s atmosphere. The vast majority burn up harmlessly during the descent, but the larger objects survive, occasionally experiencing intense fragmentation events, and reach the ground. These events can pose a non-negligible threat for a village or a small city; therefore, models of asteroid fragmentation, together with accurate post breakup trajectory and strewn field estimation, are needed to enable a reliable risk assessment of these hazards.

In this work, a comprehensive methodology to describe meteoroids entry, fragmentation, descent, and strewn field is presented by means of a continuum approach. At breakup, a modified version of the NASA Standard Breakup Model is used to generate the fragments distribution in terms of their area-to-mass ratio and ejection velocity. This distribution, combined with the meteoroid state, is directly propagated using the continuity equation coupled with the non-linear entry dynamics. At each time step, the fragments probability density time-evolution is reconstructed using Gaussian Mixture Model interpolation. Using this information is then possible to estimate the meteoroid’s ground impact probability.

This approach departs from the current state-of-the-art models: it has the flexibility to include large fragmentation events while maintaining a continuum formulation for a better physical representation of the phenomenon. The methodology is also characterised by a modular structure, so that updated asteroids fragmentation models can be readily integrated into the framework, allowing a continuously improving prediction of re-entry and fragmentation events.

The propagation of the fragments’ density and its reconstruction, at the moment considering only one fragmentation point, is first compared against Monte Carlo simulations, and then against real observations. Both deceleration due to atmospheric drag and ablation due to aerothermodynamics effects have been considered.”