Plasma and Electromagnetic Simulations of Meteor Head Echo Radar Reflections

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Abstract

Recently, meteor head echo detections from high powered large aperture radars (HPLA) have brought new measurements to bear on the study of sporadic interplanetary meteors. These same observations have demonstrated an ability to observe smaller meteoroids without some of the geometrical restrictions of specular radar techniques. Yet incorporating data from various radar reflection types and from different radars into a single consistent model has proven challenging. We believe this arises due to poorly understood radio scattering characteristics of the meteor plasma, especially in light of recent work showing that plasma turbulence and instability greatly influences meteor trail properties at every stage of evolution. In order to overcome some of the unknown relationships between meteoroid characteristics (such as mass and velocity) and the resulting head echo radar cross-sections (RCS), we present our results on meteor plasma simulations of head echo plasmas using particle in cell (PIC) ions, which show that electric fields strongly influence early stage meteor plasma evolution, by accelerating ions away from the meteoroid body at speeds as large as several kilometers per second. We also present the results of finite difference time domain electromagnetic simulations (FDTD), which can calculate the radar cross-section of the simulated meteor plasma electron distributions. These simulations have shown that the radar cross-section depends in a complex manner on a number of parameters. In this paper we demonstrate that for a given head echo plasma the RCS as a function of radar frequency peaks at sqrt (2*peak plasma frequency) and then decays linearly on a dB scale with increasing radar frequency. We also demonstrate that for a fixed radar frequency, the RCS increases linearly on a dB scale with increasing head echo plasma frequency. These simulations and resulting characterization of the head echo radar cross-section will both help relate HPLA radar observations to meteoroid properties and aid in determining a particular radar facility's ability to observe various meteoroid populations.

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