The Dynamical Evolution of a Tubular Leonid Persistent Train

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The dynamical evolution of the persistent train of a bright Leonid meteor was examined for evidence of the source of the luminosity and the physical conditions in the meteor path. The train consisted of two parallel somewhat diffuse luminous tracks, interpreted as the walls of a tube. A general lack of wind shear along the trail allowed these structures to remain intact for nearly 200 s, from which it was possible to determine that the tubular structure expanded at a near constant 10.5 ms−1, independent of altitude between 86 and 97 km. An initial fast decrease of train intensity below 90 km was followed by an increase in intensity and then a gradual decrease at longer times, whereas at high altitudes the integrated intensity was nearly constant with time. These results are compared to a model that describes the dynamical evolution of the train by diffusion, following an initial rapid expansion of the hot gaseous trail behind the meteoroid. The train luminosity is produced by O (1S) emission at 557 nm, driven by elevated atomic O levels produced by the meteor impact, as well as chemiluminescent reactions of the ablated metals Na and Fe with O3. Ozone is rapidly removed within the train, both by thermal decomposition and catalytic destruction by the metallic species. Hence, the brightest emission occurs at the edge of the train between outwardly diffusing metallic species and inwardly diffusing O3. Although the model is able to account plausibly for a number of characteristic features of the train evolution, significant discrepancies remain that cannot casily be resolved.

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