- Subject: MULTI-TAILED METEORS
Reports of meteors displaying more than one tail are very rare though not entirely unknown.
There are two possible explanations for this phenomenon. Firstly, the meteoroid may split in two. This is not uncommon. Meteoroids, by and large, are fairly friable objects and can split and fragment because of a combination of thermal shock and pressure. However, the two fragments would have to divide by some considerable distance to prevent the ions from combining to produce just one single tail. Under these circumstances we would expect to see the head split and possibly flare. Most reports do not mention this.
Perhaps a more likely explanation is that the meteoroid releases unablated material into the train – the so-called smoke train – which shows up as a dark spine and is mistaken for a split train.
Copyright 1996 Philip M. Bagnall