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Meteors in Planetary Atmospheres

As part of his PhD project investigating the properties of meteors in the atmospheres of other planets, Jonathan McAuliffe has perfected his Fortran code simulating the ablation process of a meteoroid in a given planetary atmosphere. In particular, he has implemented a novel `shelling' scheme as a method of dealing with the high thermal gradients established within the ablating meteoroid. In the first application of the code, he has sought to corroborate the findings of Christou (Icarus 168, 23-33, 2004) regarding the detection of meteors in the atmosphere of Venus. He was able to confirm, using his more sophisticated model, that Venusian meteors would be brighter and ablate higher than at the Earth, showing that the more numerous faint component of the meteoroid size distribution at the Earth would be up to two stellar magnitudes brighter at Venus. This bodes well for the detection of meteors from orbit.