New type of radiation of
bright Leonid meteors above 130 km

Meteoritics & Planetary Science 35 (2000)
© Meteoritical Society, 2000. Printed in USA

Pavel Spurný*, Hans Betlem, Klaas Jobse, Pavel Koten and Jaap Van't Leven

*Correspondence author's address: Astronomical Institute, Ondrejov Observatory, 251 65 Ondrejov, Czech Republic; e-mail address:


In this paper we study the extremely high beginning parts of atmospheric trajectories of seven Leonid meteors recorded by sensitive TV systems equipped with image intensifiers up to apparent magnitude +6.5. For all the seven cases we observed comet-like diffuse structures with sizes of the order of kilometers and quickly developing during the meteoroid penetration through the atmosphere. For the brightest event with maximum absolute magnitude of -12.5, we observed an arc looking like a solar protuberance and producing a jet detectable several kilometers sideways from the brightest parts of the meteor head, and moving with velocities over 100 km/s. These jets are common features for the seven studied meteors. Precise position in trajectory, velocity and brightness at each point is available for all seven meteors, because of double-station records on 85 km base-line. When these meteoroids reached 130 km height, this diffuse structure of the radiation quickly transformed to usual meteor appearance resembling moving droplet, and a meteor train started to develop. These meteor phenomena above 130 km were not recognized before our observations, and they cannot be explained by standard ablation theory.

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