Meteor trail characteristics observed by high time resolution lidar

Yingjie Liu*, J.M.C. Plane, B.R. Clemesha, J.H. Wang, X.W. Cheng

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


. We report and analyse the characteristics of 1382 meteor trails based on a sodium data set of ~ 680 h. The observations were made at Yanqing (115.97° E, 40.47° N), China by a ground-based Na fluorescence lidar. The temporal resolution of the raw profiles is 1.5 s and the altitude resolution is 96 m. We discover some characteristics of meteor trails different from those presented in previous reports. The occurrence heights of the trails follow a double-peak distribution with the peaks at ~ 83.5 km and at ~ 95.5 km, away from the peak height of the regular Na layer. 4.7% of the trails occur below 80 km, and 3.25% above 100 km. 75% of the trails are observed in only one 1.5 s profile, suggesting that the dwell time in the laser beam is not greater than 1.5 s. The peak density of the trails as a function of height is similar to that of the background sodium layer. The raw occurrence height distribution is corrected taking account of three factors which affect the relative lifetime of a trail as a function of height: the meteoroid velocity (which controls the ratio of Na/Na+ ablated); diffusional spreading of the trail; and chemical removal of Na. As a result, the bi-modal distribution is more pronounced. Modelling results show that the higher peak corresponds to a meteoroid population with speeds between 20 and 30 km s−1, whereas the lower peak should arise from much slower particles in a near-prograde orbit. It is inferred that most meteoroids in this data set have masses of ~ 1 mg, in order for ablation to produce sufficient Na atoms to be detected by lidar. Finally, the evolution of longer-duration meteor trails is investigated. Signals at each altitude channel consist of density enhancement bursts with the growth process usually faster than the decay process, and there exists a progressive phase shift among these altitude channels.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1321-1332
JournalAnnales Geophysicae
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Meteor trail
  • Lidar
  • high time resolution

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