We have analyzed the superbolides recorded by the US Government satellite sensors. We found that ∼1/4 of the large fireballs detected from the space could be associated with near-Earth objects or meteoroid streams. The suspected interstellar rocky messenger exhibits a remarkably high tensile strength, indicating that only large or strong enough objects may survive the harsh interstellar medium.

There is an unceasing incoming flux of extraterrestrial materials reaching the Earth’s atmosphere. Some of these objects produce luminous columns when they ablate during the hypersonic encounter with air molecules. A few fireballs occur each year bright enough to be detected from space. The source of these events is still a matter of debate, but it is generally accepted that they are of sporadic origin. We studied the NASA-JPL Center for NEOs Studies (CNEOS) fireball database to infer the dynamic origin of large bolides produced by meter-sized projectiles that impacted our planet. These likely meteorite-dropping events were recorded by the US Government satellite sensors. We estimated the false-positive rate and analyzed the time evolution of multiple orbit dissimilarity criteria concerning potential associations with near-Earth objects and meteoroid streams. We found that at least 16% of the large bolides could be associated with meteoroid streams, about 4% are likely associated with near-Earth asteroids, and 4% may be linked to near-Earth comets. This implies that a significant fraction of meter-sized impactors producing large bolides may have an asteroidal or cometary origin. In addition, we found at least three bolides having hyperbolic orbits with high tensile strength values. Meter-sized meteoroids of interstellar origin could be more common than previously thought, representing about 1% of the flux of large bolides. The inferred bulk physical properties suggest that the interstellar medium could bias these projectiles towards high strength rocks with the ability to survive prolonged exposure to the harsh interstellar space conditions.

This work has been published in The Astronomical Journal.

Link to the article as open access in AJ: https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-3881/ac75d2

Link to the article as green open access: https://arxiv.org/abs/2206.03115