Meteor Tracker Images


For the past few years (2000-2002), most of my astronomical observations have consisted of tracking and imaging meteors using an instrument that I call the Meteor Tracker. It allows for high resolution video imaging over a wide field area. A pervious version of the instrument called the "AIM-IT" prototype was flown on the 2002 Leonid MAC mission. The current Meteor Tracker consists of a wide field image intensified camera who's video signal is processed by a computer. The computer detects meteors and steers two mirrors attached to stepper motors, that sit in front of a high resolution video camera. Image of Meteor Tracker

The Biggest Baddest One So Far - An estimated -8 magnitude meteor imaged over the Atlantic Ocean from the NASA DC-8 during the 2002 Leonid MAC mission. The field of view is around 8 X 6 degrees. I missed this actual event because I was in the back of the plane eating.

Meteor Tracker images from Dec 14, 2004
A bright Geminid meteor passes Betelgeuse...
Image 1     Image 6
Image 2     Image 7
Image 3     Image 8
Image 4     Image 9
Image 5     Wide Field Camera Image

  RegiStax enhanced wide-field image

Narrow Field camera Animated GIF (2.1 Mb)
Wide Field Camera Animated GIF (3.3 Mb)

This was a fairly impressive Geminid lasting over 1.5 seconds and reaching several times the brightness of Betelgueuse. The 9 images above are from the narrow field camera; a PC-164 HR with a 35mm f1.2 lens ~ 8x6 deg FOV.

Geminid Meteor image
Geminid Meteor Dec 14, 2004 04:23:00UT
More 2004 Geminids:
    Geminid Dec 14, 2004 07:36UT     Narrow Field Camera 780 Kb Animated GIF
    Geminid Dec 14, 2004 08:51UT     Narrow Field Camera 474 Kb Animated GIF

Leonid Meteor image
Leonid Meteor Nov 17, 2004
Meteor Tracker images from Nov 17, 2004

Leonid Nov 17, 2004 This image is an integration of two video frames. The meteor was located close to the radiant.

Animated GIF 512 Kb Animated GIF is made up of 40 individual deinterlaced video fields and is slower than real motion. The images have been cropped in size.

A Taurid ? Nov 17, 2004
Animated GIF of track 1374Kb

August 2004:     09-19-2004     09-20-2004 - More video fields

2004 Perseids - the weather was awful for the peak.

Single video fields of an early Perseid shot with the Meteor Tracker. Imaged with a PC-164 High Res video camera and 35mm F/1.2 lens. FOV is approximately 8x6 degrees.

Aug 10,2004 04:25:14 UT Perseid Meteor - Another field. Going, going... - Integration of 7 video fields

August 11 Sporadic - Another field. Integration of a few video fields
739 Kb Slow-mo Animated GIF of tracked meteor

The images below offer a good view of how the Meteor Tracker tracks a meteor.

The August 11th 2004 sporadic lasted for several video frames and was heading nearly straight down with respect to the instrument's alignment. During detection and tracking, the mirrors are positioned to reflect the meteor's image into the high resolution camera. The system continues to monitor the meteor's location via a video feed from a wide field camera and after it passes a certain distance, the next mirror positioning command is issued. This process is repeated until the meteor is no longer brighter than detection and triggering threshhold levels. In the case of this meteor, the mirrors were repositioned three times after the original detection and positioning.

739 Kb Slow-mo Animated GIF of tracked meteor

Here are the four integrated segments as images:
First segment - Second segment - Third segment - Last segment

Integrated without slewing frames
Integrated with slewing frames
Integrated to show the entire path of the meteor

Twin Trackers
I'm currently involved in building a pair of identical Meteor Trackers that will be used for "two station" imaging and orbit determination of meteors, from two separate locations several kilometers apart. They will use the High Resoultion version of the PC-164 with a 50mm F/1.3 lens for the narrow field camera. The wide field camera is a 69 degree FOV Gen II image intensified camera afocally coupled to a PC-164.
2003 Geminid meteor with jets Geminids 2003

A Geminid meteor sporting jets imaged Dec 12, 2003 02:29:06 UT using the mirror based meteor tracker.

Single field full raw image

Zoomed in image

Leonid Multi-Instrument Aircraft Campaign   Meteor Footage

I was lucky to be invited to fly the tracker on the Leonid MAC mission in 2002. It was a real thrill and wonderful adventure! Image of the NASA DC-8, crew and scientists.

Image of totally thrilled amateur astronomer! Here's the original tracker mounted in the NASA DC-8:
Image 1 - Image 2

Mission pictures at Jane and Mojo's site

Leonid MAC Site at Ames Research Center

Near-Live Leonid Watching System! Loads of images from many countries!

2002 and previous years observations... 2002 Leonids, Geminids, Perseids and other, Images and Video

2001 Leonids, Images and Video

2001 Lunar Leonid Observations