The orbit and atmospheric trajectory of the Orgueil meteorite from historical records
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CitationGounelle, M., Spurný, P., & Bland, P. A. (2006). The orbit and atmospheric trajectory of the Orgueil meteorite from historical records. Meteoritics & Planetary Science, 41(1), 135-150.
PublisherThe Meteoritical Society
JournalMeteoritics & Planetary Science
AbstractUsing visual observations that were reported 140 years ago in the Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Sciences de Paris, we have determined the atmospheric trajectory and the orbit of the Orgueil meteorite, which fell May 14, 1864, near Montauban, France. Despite the intrinsic uncertainty of visual observations, we were able to calculate a reasonably precise atmospheric trajectory and a moderately precise orbit for the Orgueil meteoroid. The atmosphere entry point was ~70 km high and the meteoroid terminal point was ~20 km high. The calculated luminous path was ~150 km with an entry angle of 20 degrees. These characteristics are broadly similar to that of other meteorites for which the trajectory is known. Five out of six orbital parameters for the Orgueil orbit are well constrained. In particular, the perihelion lies inside the Earth's orbit (q ~0.87 AU), as is expected for an Earth-crossing meteorite, and the orbital plane is close to the ecliptic (i ~0 degrees). The aphelion distance (Q) depends critically on the pre-atmospheric velocity. From the calculated atmospheric path and the fireball duration, which was reported by seven witnesses, we have estimated the pre-atmospheric velocity to be larger than 17.8 km/sec, which corresponds to an aphelion distance Q larger than 5.2 AU, the semi-major axis of Jupiter orbit. These results suggest that Orgueil has an orbit similar to that of Jupiter-family comets (JFCs), although an Halley-type comet cannot be excluded. This is at odds with other meteorites that have an asteroidal origin, but it is compatible with 140 years of data-gathering that has established the very special nature of Orgueil compared to other meteorites. A cometary origin of the Orgueil meteorite does not contradict cosmochemistry data on CI1 chondrites. If CI1 chondrites originate from comets, it implies that comets are much more processed than previously thought and should contain secondary minerals. The forthcoming return of cometary samples by the Stardust mission will provide a unique opportunity to corroborate (or contradict) our hypothesis.