Welcome to the ESA/RSSD Meteor Research Group's Website
The ESA/RSSD Meteor Research Group consists of a team of scientists and engineers based at ESA facilities throughout Europe. Their goal is to understand the effects of meteoric phenomena on planetary atmospheres and surfaces, as well as on spacecraft. The team carries out observational and theoretical studies in order to increase our knowledge of the small particle complex in the solar system.
Nice double-peaked meteor seen by CILBO
This interesting double-peaked meteor was recorded by our cameras ICC7 on Tenerife (left) and ICC9 on La Palma (right). Only a handful of meteors per month show more than one peak, and this one is the most extreme example since the start of the operation of the system in 2011. Try to visualize the geometry - the meteor flew more towards La Palma, that is why it seems to be shorter in the ICC9 image. Because the apparent speed of the meteor is then slower, it spends more time on one pixel of the camera - and seems to be brighter.
Double-station meteor with peak magnitude of about 1 mag, recorded 05 Oct 2013, 05:13:58 UTC, from ICC7 onTenerife (left) and ICC9 on La Palma (right).
CILBO - first science results
We presented the first science results of our meteor camera setup at the Asteroids, Comets, Meteors conference 2011 in Niigata, Japan. We have analyzed the light curves of the Geminids - see here: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/acm2012/pdf/6140.pdf. The image at the right shows a 3-D plot of the orbits as determined from the two cameras. The typical astrometric accuracy of the data is better than 1 arcminute.
The plot shows all meteors marked as Geminids by our detection software MetRec (Molau 1999). The blue line is the orbit of the Earth. Note that there is one obvious non-Geminid there...
CILBO - first double station meteor
13 Dec 2011
Since a few years, we have been working on setting up a double-station meteor system on the Canary Islands, called CILBO. The idea is to have a double-station meteor camera system to determine meteor orbits and their chemical composition from a good astronomical observing site over at least two years. We have finally managed to set up the first two cameras for this. At the time of writing this text, Hans Smit and Cornelis (Kees) van der Luijt of the Meteor Research Group of RSSD/ESA are on La Palma, Spain, setting up one of the camera stations. The first double-station meteor is shown in the following image.
Draconids observed successfully
09 Oct 2011 - updated 15 Oct 2011 - and 28 Oct 2011
We have participated in an airborne observing campaign for the Draconids and successfully observed the peak of this meteor stream - with rates of about 500 per hour, as predicted by J. Vaubaillon - on 09 Oct 2011. The airborne campaign was led by J. Vaubaillon (IMCCE) and P. Koten (Ondreyov Observatory), see here for details.
Also from the ground the Draconids were nicely visible. Below an animation of all meteors recorded by the intensified camera LIC4 in the Netherlands in a 3-hour time interval around the Draconid peak.
The complete team in Kiruna - our two Falcon-20 aircraft
News from the VMO
01 May 2011
The VMO, the Virtual Meteor Observatory, was implemented when Geert Barentsen was at ESTEC. In the meantime Geert has moved to the Observatory of Armagh, but he is still working on the VMO. Currently, he is working together with Sirko Molau on setting up a page to produce life flux graphs similar to the ZHR graphs for visual observations. Have a look here for more (note: not all browsers may support this page, for me it only works in Firefox).
Note, by the way, that the normal VMO data is currently not accessible.
29 Apr 2011
Since several weeks we have been testing our setup for CILBO. A plot showing the weather information of 27 Apr 2011 is shown here...
CILBO sees first light
11 Mar 2011
The last year we didn't make as much progress as foreseen with our 'CILBO' project, which has the aim of installing a double-station camera system on the Canary Islands. A lot of time was spent on in-door testing and software optimisation. Now, however, there is visible progress - before the installations go to the Canarys, we test one setup under real-sky conditions in the Netherlands. We have set up this system and it automatically obtained data during the night, albeit still with a non-intensified camera (just in case...). Unfortunately it was cloudy, but it seems that the system is working.
The CILBO hut next to The Koschny Observatory - The CILBO hut close-up - The computer set up in the operating room of The Koschny Observatory.
Geminids 2010 in Andoya
09-17 Dec 2010
This year, ESA/RSSD's Meteor Research Group joined the ECOMA campaign to observe 'meteoric smoke particles' using three sounding rockets from the Andoya Rocket Range in Norway. We provided optical observations to support the measurements. We deployed two stations, one next to the MAARSY radar in Andoya itself, manned by Andre Knofel and Detlef Koschny, one about 100 km south close to Lodingen, manned by Joe Zender and Felix Bettonvil.
The weather could have been better - we only had a few hours of clear skies simultaneously at both sites. Anyway, we will be able to compute flux rates based on optical observations, which will help constraining the total flux when compared with the radar flux rates of the SKYiNET radar. We have also recorded the first ever spectrum of a Geminid which was also recorded via the head-echo radar MAARSY.
Some interesting links:
Andre's blog showing some pictures of the LIDAR and aurorae (in German);
A meteor spectrum:
The launch of the ECOMA 2 rocket.
The launch of the Black Brant rocket, using the SPOSH camera.
FireWorks and International Meteor Conference 2010
18 Sep 2010
On 15 + 16 Sep 2010, we have organised the 'Fireball Workshop' (FireWorks) in Armagh, Northern Ireland. The goal was to collect a number of experts and discuss the questions how to best collect fireball reports from the public, and what to store in a fireball database. After that, from 16-19 Sep 2010, the International Meteor Conference (IMC) took place in Armagh, Northern Ireland. ESA's MRG participated with J. Mc Auliffe, D. Koschny, J. de la Perra, and F. Ocana Gonzalez. See http://www.imo.net/imc2010 for more details.
We have participated in the DLR Berlin Perseid 2010 observing campaign. This year we (A. Knoefel and D. Koschny) spent a week in Ramsau/Schladming, Austria, observing with a SPOSH camera and the intensified LIC1 camera. Unfortunately the weather wasn't so great - we had 2.5 clear nights, with only half a night clear in parallel to the other station at Gahberg, Austria. About 100 double-station Perseids await analysis.
We acknowledge the efforts of the Greek amateur astronomers of the Sparta Astronomical Association - Dioskouroi and the Patras club 'Orion'.
01 Jul 2010
Here's the sad news: Maria had to leave us at the end of June, as her contract ended. Thanks for your work at MRG, Maria! The good news: We gained to summer students who will work with us for the next 3 months: Julia (Jools) M. de la Parra and Francisco (Paco) Ocana Gonzalez.
MRG member won gold medal
Maria Gritsevich, currently working in our Meteor Research Group, won a gold medal for her publications in Moskow - see here for details. Congratulations, Maria!
Meteor Orbit Determination workshop #03
17-20 Apr 2010
From 17 to 20 April 2010 the Meteor Orbit Determination workshop #03 took place, organised by Maria Gritsevich and Detlef Koschny from ESA/RSSD. Even though several participants had to change their travel plans as no airplanes were flying due to volcanic ash in the air, we had 17 out of 20 registered participants at ESA in the Netherlands. Up to 6 others participated via internet (webex).
Since August we didn't have very good weather here - but starting 13 Dec it cleared up! One of our video cameras, a cheap Watec 120N, recorded 76 Geminids in 8.7 hours of observing time (and 19 sporadics).
A nice Geminid meteor, 14 Dec 2009, 01h23m11s UTC. The constellation to the left of the meteor is Ursa Minor.
Bright fireball over the Netherlands
13 Oct 2009
Today there was a fireball over the area - and our team member Maria Gritsevich saw it on her way home from work! Check here for details.
Testing the new Zeiss gratings
19/20 Sep 2009
Joe Zender and Detlef Koschny were testing the new gratings which we purchased this year.
Today Geert Barentsen is here - we get new hardware for our server of the Virtual Meteor Observatory (VMO) and he is helping to transfer the database. Our new server is a Dell Poweredge 2600 with 6 harddisks in a configuration such that if one breaks down, it can be swapped without the user noticing.
Again we acknowledge the support of our computer team working with Gunther Thorner in supporting us, in particular Yogi Stuwe who installed the new machine for us.
13 Aug 2009
The night 12/13 Aug was reasonably clear, with about 50 % clouds 'only'. Our intensified LIC1 saw almost 400 meteors! And also with the SPOSH camera we recorded >160 meteors. Now we just have to see how many parallel meteors we have with the other SPOSH camera operated by DLR north of the Alps.
11 Aug 2009
The first two nights we had clouds and rain. On the evening of 11 August, there were a few hours of clear skies. Now (12 Aug, 00h15m) it gets cloudy again. Anyway, we have recorded some meteors! Here the first Perseid recorded with LIC1,
09 Aug 2009
We have arrived at the Kanzelhohe Observatory! We, that is Andre Knoefel (International Meteor Organisation) and myself yesterday, Hakan Svedhem today. Unfortunately the weather is bad, it's raining. And Detlef's remote camera in the Netherlands shows clear skies...
We are on an observing campaign with DLR Berlin, using our SPOSH cameras. Here the field of view of our cameras at Kanzelhohe and Gahberg (both Austria) when pointing zenith (left) and when pointing our camera only 10 deg above the horizon (right). Let's hope we can use them.
29 Jul 2009
Benedikt has put together a prototype for our first new camera with large-format XX1332 intensifiers (he calls them 'Large field-of-view Intensified Camera, LIC). After testing in the lab, the first real-sky image with LIC1 was obtained in the evening of 29 Jul 2009.
We have yet another new team member - Benedikt Ernst joined yesterday and will stay for 2 months, he's working as a stagiaire. He will help testing things for SILBO, and put together prototype cameras with some used XX 1332 intensifiers which we bought.
01 Jul 2009
We welcome a new team member - Maria Gritsevich from Moscow started working in our Meteor Research Group on 01 July. She will focus on modelling the light emitted from meteors in the infrared - this is to help us modelling what an Infrared meteor camera could see from space.
The roofs have arrived
30 May 2009
The automated roofs for our double-station setup have arrived. They were ordered from the company ' Pier-Tech ' in the US. Currently we are getting acquainted with its operation in the lab. Christian Erd will go to the Canaries in August to finalize the locations for setting them up.
CILBO becomes SILBO
17 Mar 2009
The Canary Islands Long Baseline Observatory (CILBO) has had a change of name. Its objectives stay the same but it is now called the Spanish Islands Long Baseline Observatory (SILBO). Initially we thought it was clever and witty to call a system based on the Canary Islands CILBO due to the fact that this would be pronounced by locals on the Island in the same that "mainlanders" pronounce SILBO - meaning a whistle. The acronym "SILBO" has a historical relevance to inter-mountain, if not inter-island, collaborations. The Silbo Gomero ("El Silbo" or "Gomeran whistle") is a whistled language spoken by inhabitants of La Gomera in the Canary Islands to communicate from mountain to mountain across the deep valleys (barrancos) that radiate through the island.
VMO - again...
07 Mar 2009
We continue working on the Virtual Meteor Observatory. In the last week of January, both Andre Knofel and Geert Barentsen were visiting ESTEC and we worked on a new fireball ball form for the VMO as well as other things.
And - a paper summarizing the ISSI team meeting 'A Virtual Observatory for Meteoroids' (see the article from 02 Dec 2008) was published in WGN, the journal of the IMO.
More progress on the Virtual Meteor Observatory
02 Dec 2008
During the week 24-28 Nov 2008, we had an ISSI workshop on 'A Virtual Observatory for Meteoroids', organised by Rainer Arlt of the International Meteor Organisation together with Geert Barentsen. Several meteor observer groups presented their setups - the University of Western Ontario in Canada, the Polish Fireball Network, the IAU Meteor Data Center, the European Network from DLR Berlin, the Ondrejov Observatory in the Czech Republic, and more. We discussed the data one should store in a virtual observatory and other issues. Geert presented the current VMO, and everybody gave comments on the data model and the structure of the VMO.
The SPOSH-IR - an infrared version of the SPOSH camera
We have kicked-off a contract with JenaOptronic to develop a breadboard for an infrared version of the SPOSH camera. It will demonstrate that we can build a flight sensor observing the night side of a planet in the infrared (0.9 to 2.5 microns). The breadboard will be built based on the SPOSH design, using a focal plane from Sofradir.
ATV reentry observations
29 Aug 2008
ESA/RSSD's Meteor Research Group participated in observing the reentry of the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV). The night-time reentry was observed with many instruments - video cameras, still cameras, and spectrometers - from two airplanes, a DC-8 and a Grumman Gulfstream V.
Jason Hatton operated a SPOSH camera on loan from DLR Berlin, Jonathan Mc Auliffe operated our ESA SPOSH camera. We also gave a Watec 120N camera to Jason.
The Watec did not work, probably due to a cabling issue. Both SPOSH cameras delivered good images of the ATV reentry. The DLR SPOSH on the Gulfstream recorded about 220 images in the time from 13h43m52s UTC to 13h47m00s UTC (about 1-2 Hz frame rate). The ESA SPOSH recorded ca. 250 images from 13h44m21s to 13h48m16s. The exposure times were 0.2 s for the DLR SPOSH, 0.4 s for the ESA SPOSH, resulting in limiting stellar magnitudes of 5-6 mag.
We are currently analyzing the data - the main goal is to produce astrometric measurements which can be used to determine the precise (
The DC8 from which Jonathan used the ESA SPOSH.
For more information on the campaign, see the ATV reentry page here.
Perseids 2008 updates
26 August 2008
The Perseids showed an unexpected outburst in the morning of August 13. The first results, based on visual observations gathered by the International Meteor Organization (IMO) and analyzed by a member of the ESA/RSSD Meteor Research Group at ESTEC, show a peak at August 13 01h53m +/- 15m UT with a rate of ZHR = 75 +/- 10.mThese initial findings have been published in IAU Telegram CBET 1480 .
12 August 2008
Perseids observations are severely disturbed by poor weather conditions in The Netherlands this year. Nevertheless, several enthusiast ESA employees went out and reported seeing a few meteors visually through the clouds in the night of 11 August.
ESA's SPOSH camera (Smart Panoramic Optical Camera Head) was given to DLR Berlin on loan for the DLR-organized Perseid observing campaign around Berlin. Let's hope that they had better weather...
Progress on the Virtual Meteor Observatory (VMO)
29 January 2008
From 17 - 20 Jan 2008, the president of the Visual Commission of the International Meteor Organisation (IMO), Rainer Arlt, and Geert Barentsen from the ESA/RSSD Meteor Research Group (MRG) met to discuss the topic of the Virtual Meteor Observatory. Rainer Arlt is working at the Astrophysical Institute Potsdam (AIP) in Germany.
This week the MRG's SPOSH camera is being shipped to California to be used by Jason Hatton as part of the international Quadrantid MAC mission coordinated by SETI's Peter Jenniskens. This campaign will take a team of scientists from the sunny coast of California to the skies over the frozen Arctic.
This week members of the ESA/RSSD Meteor Research Group (MRG) travel to the Hawaiian Islands to observe a rare outburst of the Aurigid meteors at 11:37 UT on the 1stSeptember. This campaign is being carried out in collaboration with research groups from Kobe University and Kochi University of Technology, Japan.
The teams observe from two sites: one at the Onizuka Visitors' Center on Hawaii and the other from the Haleakala Observatory site on Maui. Visual and spectroscopic observations will be made of the luminous meteor phenomena assoicated with the disintegration and ablation of dust particles in the Earth's atmosphere. In the case of the Aurigid meteor shower the ablating dust particles are believed to have been produced by Comet Keiss during its second to last perihelion passage around 82 B.C.
In addition to the observations on Hawaii, the MRG's Jason Hatton will take part in an airborne Aurigid Campaign organised by Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute.
From the evening of Sunday 12 August to the early hours of Monday 13 August scientists from the ESA/RSSD MRG were camped out at the Kanzelhöhe observatory in Austria attempting, in coordination with other ESA teams and groups from DLR Berlin, to capture this year's Perseid meteor shower peak.
"The sky has cleared now enough for us to get a reference stars image for our video cameras, so they are now pointing in the right direction (towards Joe Zender in Schladming) and are waiting for some "juicy" Perseids. The SPOSH camera is ticking away happily. And the Watec system that will fly with Jason Hatton on Peter Jenniskens' Aurigid MAC mission at the end of the month is also operating."
For a night-by-night account of the team's campaign click here...
At the top of the menu on the right hand side of this page you'll find a calendar of upcoming events and campaigns in which members of the MRG will participate. Days on which events will take place have blue, as opposed to black, day numbers. Click on List for an overview of the current month's events or on Year-at-a-glance for a view of the full year - where you can view overview lists of each month's activities.
Aurigid 2007 Outburst - Observations from the Aloha State
06 July 2007
Towards the end of August 2007 members of the ESA/RSSD/MRG will travel to the Hawaiian Islands to observe what will potentially be a rare outburst of the Aurigid meteors on the 1st of September.
We are currently in the process of setting up and testing a permanent double station meteor observatory on the Canary Islands, Spain. One camera will be based at ESA's Optical Ground Station (OGS) on Tenerife and the other at the Dutch Open Telescope (DOT) on La Palma.