Meteor Video

I made a video from one of the captures by my automatic meteor camera. This is basically the raw video from the camera, with a little noise reduction and colorising the monochrome video to a blue hue. This is real time video (not slowed or sped up). I shared it because I thought it was a particularly pretty meteor.
It was a brightly moonlit night and, as you can see, partly cloudy. The bright star in the lower centre of the image is Aldebaran – the brightest in the constellation of Taurus, the bull.
The meteor analyses as part of the lambda cygnid meteor shower. This is a minor shower, possibly associated with debris from a minor comet – 2005CA. Details of this meteor (and all others observed) are in the ukmon archive.

Classic Cold Front

Today’s weather came from the passage of a cold front: where cold air pushing in, lifts the warmer, moister air in front of it, to create rain. Although the front was not particularly remarkable, it fitted the textbook very well so is worth reporting.

Noon Met Office Analysis Chart - 4 Oct 2014 Firstly, the analysis chart shows the situation. Over Europe there is still the high pressure which has dominated our weather for some time, bringing light winds from the south and south-east. This air has been in place for a while, so was warm and humid. The air held quite a lot of water moisture, but there was no rain as the high pressure meant that air was descending and there was no mechanism to lift the air to create clouds and rain.

Behind the cold front, a very different air mass is pushing in from the atlantic. The air is much colder and so holds much less moisture. The front is where the colder air is pushing at the warmer air, lifting it from the surface and so making rain.

That’s the “synoptic view” (which means “seeing it all”). What did we see here in Horley, on the ground? My weather station saw a sudden drop in temperature, a sudden drop in dew point (which reflects how much moisture is in the air) and a change in wind direction. There was also a sudden increase in wind speed at the front itself.

Temerature Change There was a drop in temperature from about 14C to about 10C over less than an hour. The dew point dropped from about 15C to about 10C in the same time. A clear change in air mass.



Wind speed
Wind direction


The wind speed peaked and the wind direction changed at the same time. This was when the bulk of the rain (3mm of the total of just over 4mm today) fell.


After such a long period of dry and warm weather, it is tempting to see this clear event as the arrival of autumn. We shall see.

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.

blue sky with high clouds

High Summer

July has been an almost perfect summer month this year. We had lots of sunny, warm and dry weather but also a few thundery breakdowns, which included a few classic summer thunderstorms here. We avoided the flash flooding and other nasty consequences that hit others and so were happy to see them go past. It now looks as if things are going to change as we go into August, though we are unlikely to be too wet here.

Southern England can be oppressively humid in the summer, but this has been fairly manageable in the last few weeks.

The weather station is fully set up, calibrated and operational. I cleared all the data at midnight to remove false readings (e.g. “rainfall” recorded by jiggling the sensor when putting the weather station in place) and so that the data is genuinely comparable from day to day. The weather station is in proper operation from 1 August 2014.

Weather Station installed

Thanks to the amazing generosity of staff, students and parents as I took early retirement from Headship, I was able to buy a Davis Vantage Vue weather station, which is now working in my garden.
The garden and other local gardens have quite a lot of trees and so are sheltered. Ideally, a weather station should be more exposed to “see” the weather more clearly, but it is measuring what the weather is like here.
The sensor pod communicates wirelessly to a console in the house. In turn, this connects to a PC that processes the data (using the excellent Cumulus software) and uploads it to the web site. The data is also sent to the Met Office, to NOAA in America and to Weather Underground, as well as making an hourly tweet.

Weather Station

I do not have any weather station hardware yet, but I wanted to make a start on a project to create a weather station for home. I want to keep an accurate and reliable record of the main weather data but also share them – through a web site and direct to various agencies so the data is useful. (e.g. the Met Office WOW programme or Weather Underground)

I found out about Sandaysoft’s excellent cumulus software and have it set up and adapted the web pages slightly to echo the rest of my web site. Obviously, no weather is yet being measured, so no valid data and no updates. That will come in time. Watch here for more news.

courgette flower

Courgette flower

Despite all the rain today and Saturday, the first courgette is in flower with its huge, not quite politically correct bloom. The colour is wonderful too. It catches the eye from far away. It almost looks alien.

It is good to see that crops are on the way.

I have thoroughly enjoyed working on the garden. There are at least 40 different crops growing in the greenhouse, deep beds and some pots. I have now begun to work on the more decorative and wildlife valuable areas. I have cleared out the ivy and weeds underneath our old plum tree and have plans for that to become a woodland border. I have lots of tiny foxgloves growing in the greenhouse, which I will pot on and try to establish as self-seeders. I also want anemones, primroses and comfrey as woodland floor plants, but with garden cultivars. I am open to other suggestions too. The research is part of the fun.

There is much, much more to do. I think the huge leylandii that separate us from the railway at the bottom of the garden need to go, but I need something to act as a barrier there. Perhaps they can be drastically trimmed. The pond needs to be emptied and re-built: a huge project. There is need for fencing and for many more areas to be brought under control. We will go one step at a time.

Already though, it is a great pleasure. Simply watching the bumble bees at work, or chatting to the friendly and pugnacious Robin who follows me around out there, is a blessing.

Garden progress

After more than a week of very hard work, there is real progress in the garden.

The greenhouse is fully fixed and functioning, with tomatoes, aubergines, cucumbers and a melon all growing nicely, along with some mixed salad leaves.

Outside, the deep beds are in position and filled with lovely soil that I bought in. I planted out cabbages, beans, peans and sweet peas, courgettes and shallots. There are raspberry canes growing well. About a quarter of the garden now looks like a cared for and proactive area. Much more to do, but a good start has been made.

Globular Cluster M3

Globular Cluster M3

Certainly not the best astrophoto I have ever taken, but reasonably pleasing, because there is much more in it than I thought when I took it. It was not fully dark and there was a first quarter moon, so the sky background was bright. There was hazy high cloud. Even so, there are stars down to 15th magnitude and you can see a galaxy (NGC 5263 – magnitude 13.4) over to the left of the image. Focus is not too awful.

The image was taken with an Atik 320e camera, trialling the new OSX drivers and example software. You can learn more about M3 here and here