Laboratory Micrometeroid/Dust Ablation Studies

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 8:35 AM
Evan Thomas1, Mihaly Horanyi1, Diego Janches2, Tobin L Munsat3, John M C Plane4, Jonas Simolka3 and Zoltan Sternovsky5, (1)University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO, United States, (2)NASA/GSFC, Greenbelt, MD, United States, (3)University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, United States, (4)University of Leeds, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2, United Kingdom, (5)Colorado Univ, Boulder, CO, United States
Each day, somewhere between 5-270 tonnes of meteoric material ablates in Earth’s upper atmosphere. This
enormous range is significant because the Interplanetary Dust Particle (IDP) input has implications in our
understanding of meteor transport in the atmosphere, the formation of layers of metal atoms and ions,
nucleation of noctilucent clouds, effects on stratospheric aerosols and O3 chemistry, and dust evolution in
our solar system. As the dust ablates, it produces light, as well as a plasma trail of ionized atmospheric
atoms and electrons. These meteor signatures are detected by photographic means, or by radar, but there
remain uncertainties in the luminous efficiency and ionization coefficient of meteors - two parameters that
are essential to evaluate densities, masses, height distributions and fluxes. Precise measurements of these
parameters would allow for not only an understanding of the layers of metal atoms and ions and meteoric
smoke particles in the mesosphere and lower thermosphere, but also would allow for the Earth’s atmosphere
to be used as a dust detector to detect and characterize the dust environment in our solar system. This work discusses the preliminary results of the new dust ablation facility at the 3 MV hypervelocity dust accelerator at the Institute for Modeling Plasma, Atmospheres and Cosmic Dust (IMPACT) at the University of Colorado, which aims to characterize the ionization coefficient and luminous efficiency of ablating micrometeroids.