Comparison of 1998 and 1999 Leonid Light Curve Morphology and Meteoroid Structure

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Photometric low-light level video observations of 1999 Leonid storm meteors have been obtained from two airborne platforms during the Leonid multi-instrument aircraft campaign (Leonid MAC). The 1999 Leonid light curves tend to be skewed towards the end point of the trajectory, while the 1998 Leonid light curves were not. The variation in the light curves from 1998 and 1999 can be explained as an overall reduction in the mass distribution index, α from ∼ 1.95 in 1998 to ∼ 1.75 in 1999. We have interpreted this behaviour as being either indicative of a gradual loss of the “glue” that keeps the grains together, or the fact that the meteoroids sampled in 1998 had a different morphological structure to those sampled in 1999. The early fragmentation of a dustball meteoroid results in a light curve that peaks sooner than that predicted by classical single body ablation theory.

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