In early 2022, the exceptional weather conditions allowed the Spanish Meteor Network (SPMN) to study 15 dazzling fireballs streaking across the sky. This work traces these meteoroids back to their cosmic origins and determine if any of these visitors could have dropped meteorites on Earth.
The extraordinary weather conditions available between February and March 2022 over Spain have allowed us to analyze the brightest fireballs recorded by the monitoring stations of the Spanish Meteor Network (SPMN). We study the atmospheric flight of 15 large meteoroids to determine if they are meteorite dropper events to prepare campaigns to search for freshly fallen extraterrestrial material. We investigate their origins in the Solar System and their dynamic association with parent bodies and meteoroid streams. Employing our Python pipeline 3D-FireTOC, we reconstruct the atmospheric trajectory utilizing ground-based multi-station observations and compute the heliocentric orbit. In addition, we apply an ablation model to estimate the initial and terminal mass of each event. Using a dissimilarity criterion and propagating backward in time, we check the connection of these meteoroids with known complexes and near-Earth objects. We also calculate if the orbits are compatible with recent meteoroid ejections. We find that ~27% of these fireballs are dynamically associated with minor meteoroid streams and exhibit physical properties of cometary bodies, as well as one associated with a near-Earth asteroid. We identify two meteorite-producing events; however, the on-site search was unsuccessful. By considering that these fireballs are mostly produced by cm-sized rocks that might be the fragmentation product of much larger meteoroids, our findings emphasize the idea that the population of near-Earth objects is a source of near-term impact hazards, existing large Earth-colliding meteoroids in the known complexes.
This work has been published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Link to the article in MNRAS: https://academic.oup.com/mnras/article/520/4/5173/6994546
Link to the article as green open access: https://arxiv.org/abs/2301.03515