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Meteoroid mass estimation based on single-frequency radar cross section measurements
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  • Liane Kathryn Tarnecki,
  • Robert Andrew Marshall,
  • Gunter Stober,
  • Johan Kero
Liane Kathryn Tarnecki
University of Colorado Boulder

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Robert Andrew Marshall
University of Colorado Boulder
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Gunter Stober
University of Bern
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Johan Kero
Swedish Institute of Space Physics
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Both high-power large aperture (HPLA) radars and smaller meteor radars readily observe the dense head plasma produced as a meteoroid ablates. However, determining the mass of such meteors based on the information returned by the radar is challenging. We present a new method for deriving meteor masses from single-frequency radar measurements, using a physics-based plasma model and finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) simulations. The head plasma model derived in~\citeA{dimopp17} depends on the meteoroids altitude, speed, and size. We use FDTD simulations of a radar pulse interacting with such head plasmas to determine the radar cross section (RCS) that a radar system would observe for a meteor with a given set of physical properties. By performing simulations over the observed parameter space, we construct tables relating meteor size, velocity, and altitude to RCS. We then use these tables to map a set of observations from the MAARSY radar (53.5 MHz) to fully-defined plasma distributions, from which masses are calculated. To validate these results, we repeat the analysis using observations of the same meteors by the EISCAT radar (929 MHz). The resulting masses are strongly linearly correlated; however, the masses derived from EISCAT measurements are on average 1.33 times larger than those derived from MAARSY measurements. Since this method does not require dual-frequency measurements for mass determination, only validation, it can be applied in the future to observations made by many single-frequency radar systems.
Sep 2021Published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics volume 126 issue 9. 10.1029/2021JA029525