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Polarization and scattering of a long-duration meteor trail

Polarization and scattering of a long-duration meteor trail,10.1029/2010JA015968,Journal of Geophysical Research,S. Close,M. Kelley,L. Vertatschitsch,

Polarization and scattering of a long-duration meteor trail  
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High-power, large-aperture (HPLA) radars have been used over the past two decades to characterize the plasmas formed both around and behind meteoroids as they enter Earth's atmosphere. These plasmas, referred to as heads and trails, respectively, occur with relative frequency (peak head echo detection rate of ∼1/s) but are extremely diverse and have been difficult to define in a general sense. One particular type of plasma, referred to as the nonspecular trail, occurs when the meteoroid travels quasi-parallel to the radar beam with the radar beam lying quasi-perpendicular to the background magnetic field. Reflection is believed to occur from field-aligned irregularities (FAIs) that form after the trail becomes unstable. While FAI scattering pertains to the majority of nonspecular trails that are short in duration, a subset of these trails, referred to as long-duration trails, still remains open to interpretation. In this paper we present a case study analysis of a long-duration, nonspecular trail and its associated head echo detected with the Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA) Long-Range Tracking and Identification Radar (ALTAIR), which is an HPLA radar. These data are unique in that they are high resolution (with monopulse angles), dual frequency, and, most importantly, dual polarized, which allows for unprecedented insight into the scattering process from both heads and trails. First, we determine the velocity and mass of the parent meteoroid, which is a particle weighing more than a milligram and is one of the largest meteoroids ever detected by ALTAIR. Second, we determine the peak plasma density and polarization of the head echo and characterize the unique, yet strong returns in the opposite polarization, which may be due to multiple scattering centers within the range gate. Finally, we examine the polarization properties of the trail and discuss the first conclusive evidence of polarization flipping along the trail striations, which we believe corresponds to sharp gradients at the edges of the trail related to turbulent mixing of a dusty plasma that is elongating along the magnetic field. We look into a new idea, namely, the notion that some nonspecular echoes might correspond to a high Schmidt number, dusty plasma, as is found in and above noctilucent clouds. Our results show how polarized return can aid in scattering diagnostics and that single polarization radars must be used with caution for determining head and trail plasma densities given that some of the return can occur in the “unexpected” channel.
Journal: Journal of Geophysical Research , vol. 116, no. A1, 2011
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