Not physically possible

Forums Meteors The curious case of the corkscrew meteors…. Not physically possible

Nick James

I think corkscrewing meteors with this kind of observable transverse displacement are physically impossible.

A very hand-wavey argument goes as follows (although you might like to check my maths since I worked this out while cycling home tonight). Let’s assume the meteor has an entry velocity of 60 km/s and it decelerates to zero in 1s. That means it is visible for a track of length 30km. Your photos show around 7 cycles of wiggles with an amplitude of around 1/50 of the trail length, so let’s say 600m. That’s +/- 600m transverse displacement in 1/7s. Assuming the transverse displacement is sinusoidal the peak transverse velocity would then be 600*(2*pi*7) m/s and the peak transverse acceleration would be 600*(2*pi*7)^2. This would require a sinusoidally acting transverse force more than 40 times the along-track drag force. That is just not physically possible.

I still think the best explanation of this is wind vibration.