Dunsink Lane, Dublin 15, D15 XR2R

NEMETODE Meteor Citizen-Science Workshop Weekend

14th/15th September 2018 at DIAS Dunsink Observatory

Memebers of the NEMETODE Meteor Network at DIAS Dunsink Observatory. (Credit: John Flannery)

The Annual NEMETODE Meteor Workshop Weekend was held at DIAS Dunsink Observatory on Friday 14th and Saturday 15th of September 2018. The weekend consisted of a Public Open Night on Friday and an all day Workshop on Saturday. The NEMETODE (NEtwork for MEteor Triangulation and Orbit DEtection) Meteor Network detects meteors using CCTV cameras and when two different cameras detect the same meteor, mathematics can be used to determine the meteor’s path.  Dunsink joined the network in 2016 thanks to a grant from SFI, and we are delighted to contribute to this citizen-science initiative.

Our Friday Public Open Night began with a brief talk from Jonathan Mackey from the Astronomy and Astrophysics Section, School of Cosmic Physics, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) about the history of Dunsink Observatory. Jonathan spoke about Sir William Rowan Hamilton who was made the Director of Dunsink Observatory when he was 22 years old, and about DIAS Dunsink Observatory coming under the jurisdiction of DIAS and its current use as a centre for fundamental research and a facility for Public Outreach. He also introduced the current research being done in the Astronomy and Astrophysics Section of DIAS, including many international collaborations.

John Flannery (IAS) talking about ‘Parallax, Plotting the Stars and Dunsink.’ (Credit: Qi Qi Kennedy)

The main speaker for the night was John Flannery from the Irish Astronomical Society (IAS) who spoke about ‘Parallax, Plotting the Stars and Dunsink’. John talked about how parallax is used with trigonometry to observe from two different points and measure distance. He spoke about The South Dome which houses the 150 year old Grubb Telescope and Sir James South whom the dome is named after. Our visitors were then guided to The South Dome where Robin Moore (IAS) spoke about the manufacturing of the Grubb Telescope. John Flannery then set up Dunsink Observatory’s modern refractor telescope and guided our visitors to observe Mars.

William Stewart (left) and Alex Pratt (right) leading a discussion about different meteor camera set ups. (Credit: Qi Qi Kennedy)

On Saturday the NEMETODE Meteor Workshop brought together members of the NEMETODE Meteor Network from all of Ireland and the UK. The day’s events began with a welcome from Jonathan Mackey (DIAS) and a brief overview of the history of Dunsink Observatory. Michael O’Connell (IFAS) then spoke about the network which consists of cameras set up and run by amateur and professional astronomers. William Stewart and Alex Pratt, founders of the NEMETODE network, led a very interactive discussion including lots of questions about the different designs of set ups and software settings used by the various members. They spoke about how to analyse their data collected by the cameras.

Jim Rowe speaking about SCAMP which is used to recover meteorites. (Credit: Qi Qi Kennedy)

After lunch, Cis Verbeeck (President of the International Meteor Organisation) spoke via Skype about the BRAMS (Belgian RAdio Meteor Stations) Network which is a collaboration between professional and amateur astronomers. Cis also spoke about the Radio Meteor Zoo which uses online volunteers to detect meteors on a spectrogram. Jim Rowe then spoke about SCAMP which is the extension of the French FRIPON fireball network into the UK. It aims to recover meteorites using 2 different cameras to mathematically calculate where the meteorite is located. Apostolos Christou from Armagh Observatory spoke about the Armagh Observatory Meteor Camera Project which involves 2 stations and has run for many years now. Student support has been crucial to this project allowing the data collected to be studied.

Alex Pratt spoke about asteroidal occulations, when a star’s light is covered (blocked out) by a passing asteroid.  Observations from different parts of the Earth have occultations with different timing and this, amazingly, allows us to build up a picture of the asteroid’s shape. The final speaker of the day was Bill Ward (NEMETODE) who spoke about meteor spectroscopy and its challenges and rewards.  It spreads out the light, so you are only sensitive to brighter meteors, but you can learn much more about them, especially their composition.

The workshop ended with a tour of Dunsink Observatory and The South Dome. This event shows how well Citizen Science has developed over time allowing professionals and amateurs to have in-depth discussions about their respective projects. This workshop showed this to be very beneficial for both sides, and sparked lots of ideas for future collaboration and development of the network.

Reported by our volunteer blogger Qi Qi Kennedy of DCU.