© Author(s) 2009. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Meteor plasma trails: effects of external electric field
1Boston University, Boston, MA, USA
2University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA
Abstract. Meteoroids traversing the E-region ionosphere leave behind extended columns of elevated ionization known as the meteor plasma trails. To accurately interpret radar signals from trails and use them for diagnostics, one needs to model plasma processes associated with their structure and evolution. This paper describes a 3-D quantitative theory of the electrostatic interaction between a dense plasma trail, the ionosphere, and a DC electric field driven by an external dynamo. A simplified water-bag model of the meteor plasma shows that the highly conducting trail efficiently short-circuits the ionosphere and creates a vast region of currents that flow through and around the trail. We predict that the trail can induce electric fields reaching a few V/m, both perpendicular and parallel to the geomagnetic field. The former may drive plasma instabilities, while the latter may lead to strong heating of ionospheric electrons. We discuss physical and observational implications of these processes.