Insights into the failure mode of the Chelyabinsk meteor from high-fidelity simulation

Jason M. Pearl, Cody D. Raskin, J. Michael Owen, Kathryn M. Kumamoto, Megan Bruck Syal

Available online 24 June 2023, 115686


“In 2013, an asteroid with a diameter of approximate 20 m broke up in the atmosphere above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk producing what is known as an airburst event. The event was recorded on video from multiple angles and a 500-kg fragment was recovered from Lake Chebarkul shortly thereafter. These aspects, coupled with the asteroid’s large size, distinguish the Chelyabinsk event as unique. In this study, we use the smoothed particle hydrodynamics method to examine the breakup mode of a Chelyabinsk-sized monolithic asteroid and probe whether a monolithic structure is consistent with observations from the Chelyabinsk event. We model the object as a homogeneous sphere with properties consistent with Chelyabinsk meteorites. We use planar-2D simulations to test the sensitivity of results to variations in the material model and to qualitatively inspect the cause of crack nucleation and fragmentation. We then compare results from a 3D simulation to observations from the event. Our 3D simulation predicts a burst height within 3 km of the observed peak luminosity suggesting the responsible asteroid may have been monolithic.”