Orbital characterization of superbolides observed from space: Dynamical association with near-Earth objects, meteoroid streams and identification of hyperbolic projectilesOPEN ACCESS 

E. Peña-Asensio, J. M. Trigo-Rodríguez, A. Rimola

Accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal


“There is an unceasing incoming flux of extraterrestrial materials reaching the Earth’s atmosphere. Some of these objects produce luminous columns when they ablate during the hypersonic encounter with air molecules. A few fireballs occur each year bright enough to be detected from space. The source of these events is still a matter of debate, but it is generally accepted that they are of sporadic origin. We studied the NASA-JPL Center for NEOs Studies (CNEOS) fireball database to infer the dynamic origin of large bolides produced by meter-sized projectiles that impacted our planet. These likely meteorite-dropping events were recorded by the US Government satellite sensors. We estimated the false-positive rate and analyzed the time evolution of multiple orbit dissimilarity criteria concerning potential associations with near-Earth objects and meteoroid streams. We found that at least 16% of the large bolides could be associated with meteoroid streams, about 4% are likely associated with near-Earth asteroids, and 4% may be linked to near-Earth comets. This implies that a significant fraction of meter-sized impactors producing large bolides may have an asteroidal or cometary origin. In addition, we found at least three bolides having hyperbolic orbits with high tensile strength values. Meter-sized meteoroids of interstellar origin could be more common than previously thought, representing about 1% of the flux of large bolides. The inferred bulk physical properties suggest that the interstellar medium could bias these projectiles towards high strength rocks with the ability to survive prolonged exposure to the harsh interstellar space conditions.”