Perseid Meteor


I took this photo while I was asleep! More accurately, it is a processed capture from an automatic system. This is a perseid meteor, passing close to the Pleiades.

I am now running a video meteor observation system and am proud to contribute the data to the UK Meteor Observation Network (ukmon). There is a basic cctv camera, fixed so that it is pointed SSE and up towards the sky, housed in a proper weatherproof case. The video is fed to a cheap usb video capture card and then to the same PC that runs the weather station. This runs software from the sonotaco group in Japan. The software receives the video and records it continuously, discarding it continuously 30 seconds or so later unless it has detected specific kinds of change in the shot – i.e. a meteor travelling across the frame. When this happens, the recording is sent to a file and details of the time are logged. Later, other software is used to analyse the meteor trail to calculate its exact position against the sky. When the data is shared, software is used to match observations of the same meteor from more that one site. This allows highly accurate positions to be calculated for the meteor and even allows its orbit to be determined.

It is surprising how many meteors the system captures: well over 200 in the six nights it has been running (which have included quite long periods of cloud). It helps that this is the peak of the perseids meteor shower. Although the full moon has interfered, I have been delighted to see how many meteors have been captured and down to about magnitude 2.

As well as video, the system captures a snapshot of the meteor. All snapshots, and details of all the meteors captured, are at ukmon:

Horley Meteor Station Archive

I will post some more videos of the more spectacular meteors on this site from time to time.

2 thoughts on “Meteors

  1. I had no idea so many meteors existed or were visible in Surrey!
    What happens to all these meteors heading our way? Do they cause damage on earth or burn up in the atmosphere?

    1. The overwhelming majority of meteors are tiny things – from a grain of dust up to a small pebble. They are debris left behind either from the very beginnings of the solar system, or from the passage of a comet or (more rarely) asteroid through the solar system. The meteor showers (like the Perseids that happen in August) occur when the earth is passing through the orbit of a comet or (more rarely) asteroid which has left behind a trail of dust to burn up in our atmosphere.
      Meteors are travelling very fast when they hit the earth’s atmosphere and so heat up from friction. Almost all vaporise completely far above our heads and are completely harmless. A very, very few are large enough and made of strong enough material to survive their trip through the atmosphere and land. They are then called meteorites. The American Meteor Society estimates: “As an order of magnitude estimation, each square kilometer of the earth’s surface should collect 1 meteorite fall about once every 50,000 years”. The earth is so huge, that this probably works out to be a meteorite landing somewhere about once a day! Very rarely, a meteor will be large enough to not only land, but to cause damage as it passes through the atmosphere and comes to earth (as in the recent Chelyabinsk Meteorite. Current theory suggests that the reign of the dinosaurs was ended by a very large meteorite impact
      There are many more meteors visible in August nights than most nights of the year. As well as the very active Perseid meteor shower (debris left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle) there are a number of other active meteor showers. Even so, the solar system has quite a lot of dust and other small debris and so there are many more meteors than most people think. Only the very brightest are noticed at all.

Comments are closed.