Meteor Hunting

Alongside my astrophotography, I am also a member of the UKMON and GMN meteor monitoring networks. I have several video cameras to capture meteors, and a radio astronomy system monitoring for events in the radio spectrum. I am also meteor section director for the Society of Popular Astronomy in the UK (website here).

To capture meteors we use a low-cost barebones security camera connected to specialist software running on a Raspberry Pi. The software captures data continuously in a special format from dusk till dawn, analysing it for potential meteors as it goes. In the morning, the system automatically reanalysed all detections to reject non-meteors, then uploads the good data to our servers.

The software can make a rough estimate of the shower, direction and velocity of the meteors, but for more detailed analysis the data is fed to the UK Meteor Network and Global Meteor Network servers. Combining data from multiple stations allows us to work out the orbits of the meteoroids that caused the meteor, and sometimes their approximate size and mass – and whether they made it to the ground.

The radio detector works a bit differently. There’s more about it in my article on the SPA website here but in essence we listen for radio echoes off the hot plasma surrounding the meteor. This data can also be used for research purposes though as the resolution is much poorer we can’t do as much. On the other hand, radio works through cloud and in daytime.

The gallery below shows some examples of fireballs I’ve picked up, along with the orbits of some meteors and the output from the radio. There are separate pages here and here with realtime updates on the latest data i have captured.

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