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Detecting Meteor's with Radio

Frequency: 20-150MHz (VHF)
Cost: ~£150 (antenna and radio receiver)
Area of Study: Meteor Showers, sporadic meteors (diurnal rate variation, annual rate variation).
Difficulty: Easy-Medium

The advantage of observing meteors with radio is that cloud and daylight don’t interfere. A radio set-up needn’t be expensive, budget about £150 if you are starting from scratch for a simple system.

Theory for those in a rush

VHF radio signals travel in ‘line-of-sight’ so a transmitter over the horizon will generally not be receivable, however when meteorids ‘burns up’ in the atmosphere they ionise the air around them creating a reflective surface that the signal from the distant transmitter can bounce off of and it is this signal we are trying to receive, this is called forward scatter.

It is generally accepted that best results are achieved from frequencies in the range of 30-100MHz, however commercial stations in this band are being turned off as part of the Europe wide digital switch over so I have chosen the GRAVES radar in France, this transmits at 143.050MHz and should be around for some time.
The antenna needs to be built for the radio frequency being observed, the design I have chosen is a Yagi, these are the same design as most TV aerials, and a design with a modest gain and only a few elements will provide a wide ‘field of view’, these can be bought commercially or can be made, see Astro Excel for calculating the sizing and spacing of the various elements in a Yagi.

The radio scanner needs to be tuned just outside of the frequency required, mine is tuned to 143.049MHz and set to the upper side band (USB), this will result in a tone, rather than the actual signal being picked up when a meteor reflects the signal – more information on how this works can be found in ‘The Radio Sky and how to Observe It’ by Jeff Lashley.

The audio output from the receiver is passed into the soundcard of a PC and spectrum analyser software (Spectrum Lab) is used to identify and log the meteors.
A full description of how Spectrum Lab is set-up is available here.

Initial Results.

My set-up is still at the experimental stage but here are some results

Perseid Meteor Shower observed


Perseid Meteor shower 2012

ColourGram of total Meteor durations, hours are down the page days across the page, represents all of August 2012

Full details on the Perseid Meteor Shower Page

Draconids Meteor Shower

Full report on the Draconid Meteor Page

A very good guide to detection and analysis of meteors using Radar is available on the BAARAG website

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Page edited 10 times. Last edit by - SimonTelescopium SimonTelescopium on Oct 24, 2012 2:47 pm. This site contains 560 pages
CMHASD - RadioMeteor