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Proceedings Paper

Infrasound from the El Paso superbolide of October 9, 1997
Author(s): Douglas O. ReVelle; Rodney W. Whitaker; William T. Armstrong
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Paper Abstract

During the noon hour on October 9, 1997 an extremely bright fireball (approximately -21.5 in stellar magnitude putting it into the class of a super-bolide) was observed over western Texas with visual sightings from as far away as Arizona to northern Mexico and even in northern New Mexico over 300 miles away. This event produced tremendously loud sonic boom reports in the El Paso area. It was also detected locally by 4 seismometers which are part of a network of 5 seismic stations operated by the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). Subsequent investigations of the data from the six infrasound arrays used by LANL (Los Alamos National Laboratory) and operated for the DOE (Department of Energy) as a part of the CTB (Comprehensive Test Ban) Research and Development program for the IMS (International Monitoring System) showed the presence of an infrasonic signal from the proper direction at the correct time for this super-bolide from two of our six arrays. Both the seismic and infrasound recordings indicated that an explosion occurred in the atmosphere at source heights from 28 - 30 km, having its epicenter slightly to the northeast of Horizon City, Texas. The signal characteristics, analyzed from approximately 0.1 to 5.0 Hz, include a total duration of approximately 4 min (at Los Alamos, LA) to greater than approximately 5 min at Lajitas, Texas, TXAR, another CTB IMS array operated by E. Herrin at Southern Methodist University (SMU) for a source directed from LA toward approximately 171 - 180 deg and from TXAR of approximately 321 - 4 deg respectively from true north. The observed signal trace velocities (for the part of the recording with the highest cross-correlation) at LA ranged from 300 - 360 m/sec with a signal velocity of 0.30 plus or minus 0.03 km/sec, implying a Stratospheric (S Type) ducted path. The dominant signal frequency at LA was from 0.20 to 0.80 Hz, with a peak near 0.3 Hz. These highly correlated signals at LA had a very large, peak to peak, maximum amplitude of 21.0 microbars (2.1 Pa). Our analysis, using several methods that incorporate various observed signal characteristics, total distance traveled, etc., indicates that the super-bolide probably had a source energy in the range between 10 - 100 tons (TNT equivlaent). This is somewhat smaller than the source energy estimate made using U.S. DoD satellite data (USAF news release, June 8, 1998).

Paper Details

Date Published: 18 November 1998
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 3434, Image Intensifiers and Applications; and Characteristics and Consequences of Space Debris and Near-Earth Objects, (18 November 1998); doi: 10.1117/12.331223
Show Author Affiliations
Douglas O. ReVelle, Los Alamos National Lab. (United States)
Rodney W. Whitaker, Los Alamos National Lab. (United States)
William T. Armstrong, Los Alamos National Lab. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 3434:
Image Intensifiers and Applications; and Characteristics and Consequences of Space Debris and Near-Earth Objects
C. Bruce Johnson; Timothy D. Maclay; Firooz A. Allahdadi, Editor(s)

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