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The Virtual Meteor Observatory (VMO)

A recent trend in astronomy is the creation of so-called Virtual Observatories, which are initiatives aimed at providing improved access to astronomical data and computing resources. For example, it has become possible to query a specific part of the sky for observations from different surveys, allowing one to seamlessly combine data from multiple instruments and wavelengths. (For example, one may try the query interfaces at

Various projects have been funded to make Virtual Observatories available for different communities. These projects include the European Virtual Observatory, the Virtual Solar Observatory, the Virtual Solar-Terrestrial Observatory, the Virtual Magnetospheric Observatory, the Virtual Space Physics Observatory, the ESA Virtual Observatory and many others. One may visit their websites to see the concept of a Virtual Observatory demonstrated. The projects generally use technical standards that have been put forward by the International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA).

A recent discussion in the Meteor Orbit Determination Working Group (MODWG) on the naming of an online database for video observations [1] has led to the idea for a Virtual Meteor Observatory. The Virtual Meteor Observatory (VMO) would be a central informatics platform for the meteor science community, providing online access to data resources from different institutions and groups. The VMO would make it easier to combine data from different observing projects, allowing new research and more comprehensive analyses to be performed.

The VMO is similar to the earlier concept of a Unified Meteor Database [2], but will use Virtual Observatory standards to increase the visibility and recognition for meteor data in the astronomical community. The development of the VMO may also be an opportunity to obtain funding for a long-term collaborative effort in the meteor science community.

A first version of the VMO was started to be developed at the ESA/RSSD Meteor Research Group. It will focus in particular on storing meteor orbits determined by video observations, including an update of the video meteor database.




Video flux graph available in draft form

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.

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 Alrt of teh 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.

We will update the documentation of the VMO accordingly and provide information on how to ingest data to the VMO.

Progress on the Virtual Meteor Observatory

29 January 2008

Geert Barentsen and Rainer ArltFrom 17 - 20 Jan 2008, the president of the video 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.

The topics they discussed were focussed on the future format of the database behind the Virtual Meteor Observatory. In particular, they discussed elements which are common to the so-called VMDB, the Visual Meteor Database of the IMO, and the video meteor data which is the special area of interest of ESA/RSSDs MRG.

A lot of progress was made in the almost four days of discussion. For example, the 'site code' which identifies observing locations of meteor observers, was redefined. This site code is relevant for both visual observers and video observers of meteors. It identifies the observing location and contains a name, the geographic coordinates (latitude and longitude) and the altitude of the observing location. This database element is common to both observing methods.

The detailed structure of the database was discussed and updated.



[1] Koschny, D., Mc Auliffe, J. (2007). “The IMO Video Meteor Database (VMDb) - A First Definition”. In: Mc Auliffe, J., Koschny, D. (eds.) Proceedings of the First Europlanet Workshop on Meteor Orbit Determination, Roden, The Netherlands, 11-13 September 2006. In press.

[2] Barentsen, G. (2007), “The Unified Meteor Database: A Generic Archiving Project for Meteor Data”. In: Mc Auliffe, J., Koschny, D. (eds.) Proceedings of the First Europlanet Workshop on Meteor Orbit Determination, Roden, The Netherlands, 11-13 September 2006. In press.

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This page was first created on 31 August, 2007 and was last updated on 2 May, 2011.
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