Satellite Views of Meteor Vapor Trail Over Russia

February 15th, 2013
FY-2D 0.73 µm Visible image

FY-2D 0.73 µm Visible image

A Meteor entered the Earth’s atmosphere over the Ural Mountains of western Russia today at approximately 0320 UTC (09:20 AM local time). The visible image from just after sunrise, above, from the Chinese FY-2D satellite shows an east-west plume, likely from the meteor, near Chelyabinsk. Meteosat-9 also captured the event (YouTube | EUMETSAT), as did Meteosat-10.

Multi-channel animation of FY-2D imagery (courtesy of Tim Schmit, NOAA/NESDIS ASPB)

Multi-channel animation of FY-2D imagery (courtesy of Tim Schmit, NOAA/NESDIS ASPB)

FY-2D has multiple channels. An animation of the visible (0.73 µm), near-infrared (3.8 µm), ‘water vapor’ (6.8 µm) and far-infrared (11.0 µm) is shown above. The signature of the meteor vapor trail is present in each of the channels. A before/after comparison  (03:00 and 03:30 UTC) of FY-2D 0.73 µm visible, 3.8 µm shortwave IR, 6.8 µm water vapor, and 10.8 µm IR window channel images is shown below.

Before/after comparison of FY-2D 0.73 µm visible, 3.8 µm shortwave IR, 6.8 µm water vapor, and 10.8 µm IR window channel images

Before/after comparison of FY-2D 0.73 µm visible, 3.8 µm shortwave IR, 6.8 µm water vapor, and 10.8 µm IR window channel images

An oblique view using 0.73 µm visible channel images from the Japanese MTSAT-2 satellite (below; click image to play animation) revealed that the stratospheric component of the meteor trail could be seen for as long as 9 hours with the aid of illumination from the sun.

MTSAT-2 0.73 µm visible channel images (click image to play animation)

MTSAT-2 0.73 µm visible channel images (click image to play animation)

A comparison of MTSAT-2 3.75 µm shortwave IR, 10.8 µm longwave IR, and 0.73 µm visible channel images (below; click image to play animation) showed that the meteor plume exhibited a dark (warm) signature on the shortwave IR images, due to this channel’s sensitivity to reflected solar radiation — that signature was seen to disappear with the loss of daytime sunlight. Since the meteor trail was not a particularly dense cloud, it did not exhibit a good signature on the longwave IR images; however, there was some recognizable signal due to the fact that the mean meteor trail IR brightness temperature of around 242 K (-31º C) was significantly warmer than that of the background IR brightness temperature of space (165 K or -108º C).

MTSAT-2 3.75 µm shortwave IR, 10.8 µm longwave IR, and 0.73 µm visible channel images (click image to play animation)

MTSAT-2 3.75 µm shortwave IR, 10.8 µm longwave IR, and 0.73 µm visible channel images (click image to play animation)

(Added, October 2013: This event has been written up in a journal article: Link)