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Jet-like Structures and Wake in Mg I (518nm) Images of 1999 Leonid Storm Meteors

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Earth, Moon and Planets



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Small meteoric fragments are ejected at significant transverse velocities from some (up to -8%) fast Leonid meteors. We reach this conclusion using low light intensified image measurements obtained during the 1999 Leonid Multi-Instrument Aircraft Campaign. High spatial resolution, narrow band image measurements of the Mg I emission at 518 nm have been used to clearly identify jet-like features in the meteor head that are the same as first observed in white light by LeBlanc et al. (1999). We postulate that these unusual structures are caused by tiny meteoroid fragments (containing metallic grains) being rapidly ejected away from the core meteoroid as the constituent glue evaporates. Marked curvature observed in the jet-like filaments suggest that the parent meteoroids are spinning and as the whirling fragments are knocked away by the impinging air molecules, or by grain-grain collisions in the fragment ensemble, they ablate quickly generating an extended area of structured luminosity up to about 1-2 km from the meteoroid center. Fragments with smaller transverse velocity components are thought to be responsible for the associated beading evident in the wake of these unusual Leonid meteors.

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