Measuring the Terminal Heights of Bolides to Understand the Atmospheric Flight of Large Asteroidal Fragments

  • Manuel Moreno-IbáñezEmail author
  • Maria Gritsevich
  • Josep M. Trigo-Rodríguez
Conference paper
Part of the Astrophysics and Space Science Proceedings book series (ASSSP, volume 46)


The extent of penetration into the Earth’s atmosphere of a meteoroid is defined by the point where its kinetic energy is no longer sufficient to produce luminosity. For most of the cases this is the point where the meteoroid disintegrates in the atmosphere due to ablation process and dynamic pressure during flight. However, some of these bodies have particular physical properties (bigger size, higher bulk strength, etc.) or favorable flight conditions (lower entry velocity or/and a convenient trajectory slope, etc.) that allow them to become a meteorite-dropper and reach the ground. In both cases, we define the end of the luminous path of the trajectory as the terminal height or end height. Thus, the end point shows the amount of deceleration till the final braking. We thus assume that the ability of a fireball to produce meteorites is directly related to its terminal height. Previous studies have discussed the likely relationship between fireball atmospheric flight properties and the terminal height. Most of these studies require the knowledge of a set of properties and physical variables which cannot be determined with sufficient accuracy from ground-based observations. The recently validated dimensionless methodology offers a new approach to this problem. All the unknowns can be reduced to only two parameters which are easily derived from observations. Despite the calculation of the analytic solution of the equations of motion is not trivial, some simplifications are admitted. Here, we describe the best performance range and the errors associated with these simplifications. We discuss how terminal heights depend on two or three variables that are easily retrieved from the recordings, provided at least three trajectory (h, v) points. Additionally, we review the importance of terminal heights, and the way they have been estimated in previous studies. Finally we discuss a new approach for calculating terminal heights.


Carbonaceous Chondrite Ordinary Chondrite Global Accuracy Entry Velocity Chelyabinsk Meteorite 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Eleanor Sansom for her valuable comments which helped to improve the content of this chapter. Dr. Trigo-Rodríguez and MMI acknowledge support from the Spanish Ministry of Sciences, research project AYA2015-67175-P. MG and MMI were supported, in part, by the Academy of Finland project No 260027. MG was also supported by the Magnus Ehrnrooth Foundation travel grant, and by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, project Nos 14-08-00204, 16-05-00004 and 16-07-01072. This study was done in the frame of a PhD. on Physics at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manuel Moreno-Ibáñez
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Maria Gritsevich
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Josep M. Trigo-Rodríguez
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Space Sciences (IEEC-CSIC), Meteorites, Minor Bodies and Planetary Sciences Group, Campus UABCataloniaSpain
  2. 2.Department of Geodesy and GeodynamicsFinnish Geospatial Research Institute (FGI)MasalaFinland
  3. 3.Department of PhysicsUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  4. 4.Institute of Physics and TechnologyUral Federal UniversityEkaterinburgRussia
  5. 5.Department of Computational PhysicsDorodnicyn Computing Centre, Russian Academy of SciencesMoscowRussia

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