Blackett Observatory Radio Meteor Detection System
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How It Works
A Guide to the Radio Meteor Detection System
The radio meteor detection system uses the GRAVES radio transmission signal to pick up reflections from ionisation in the upper atmosphere. Such ionisation is created as a meteor ablates in the atmosphere. The great thing about observing in the radio part of the spectrum is that cloud and daylight do not stop observations. The radio meteor detector is active 24/7, picking up the smallest signals from everything in the atmosphere in a southeasterly direction in the sky. This means that event numbers are significantly higher than you would expect when looking for meteors by eye.
For more detail about how the system works, please click the image below to display the RAS prize winning poster created by a recent Marlborough College Astronomy GCSE pupil…
One of the problems with the radio meteor detector is that it not only detects meteor ionisation in the atmosphere, but it also detects reflections of the GRAVES signal from space hardware. This can create ‘false peaks’ of activity, especially after a launch of Starlink satellites, where as many as sixty reflections can happen in quick succession! Here is a screen shot of such an event:
We are working on methods to ‘clean up’ the data to show only meteor events and not satellites, the ISS, signal bounce off the ionosphere, aircraft and so on.
Charts of the monthly detected meteor activity