Radio Astronomy

February Meteors.

February is not noted for its meteor showers, only a handful of minor showers and some daytime showers.

Minor Activity

Radiant Duration Maximum
Aurigids January 31-February 23 Feb. 5-10
Alpha Centaurids (ACE) February 2-25 Feb. 8/9
Beta Centaurids February 2-25 Feb. 8/9
Delta Leonids (DLE) February 5-March 19 Feb. 22/23
Sigma Leonids February 9-March 13 Feb. 25/26

Daylight Activity

Radiant Duration Maximum
Capricornids-Sagittariids January 13-February 28 Jan. 30-Feb. 3
Chi Capricornids January 29-February 28 Feb. 13/14

The radar reflections using Graves, gave a total count of 1140 meteors, with an average daily count of 41 and average hourly count of 2 (1.7), the max hourly count observed was 7 and max daily count 62. The contributions to activity from the Centaurids , Leonids and Capricornids are discernible on the charts below. March is another month of no notable shower, but lots of minor showers.

Clear Skies

Pete H


Jocelyn Burnell Lecture at Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre

Since retiring a year ago I have rekindled my casual interest in astronomy by taking an online Astronomy GCSE course, joining the RAG and visiting places of astronomical interest, such as the world famous radio telescope at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire. During my visit there on 1 February 2018, a famous astronomer, Dame Jocelyn Burnell was delivering a lecture on her discovery of pulsars in 1967.  She’s famous not only for this discovery but also for her controversial exclusion from the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery.

Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope

Although the radio telescope is an impressive feat of technology and engineering, the highlight of my visit was the lecture. The event sold out shortly after Christmas and so all 200 seats in the auditorium were occupied, she was obviously very popular with the astronomer fraternity.

She explained that the objective of her PhD was to discover more quasars (quasi stellar radio sources) but first she had to build her own radio telescope, and for this, like all fellow astronomy students back then, she was given a tool-kit; rugged pliers, wire snips and a screwdriver! Cambridge still used valves in their amplifiers, although transistors were available at the time! The new telescope covered several acres, used miles of cable, took 2 years of working in all weathers to complete and worked first time! It was a fixed structure, with no control over its direction.

Launch of IYA 2009, Paris - Grygar, Bell Burnell cropped.jpg                                                                                   Dame Jocelyn Burnell                                                                                 

She confessed to being so surprised at getting into Cambridge University that she was sure the University had made a grave mistake and she would be thrown out as soon as this was discovered. In the meantime, she would work flat out to get as much done before this happened. This, she said, was the incentive that drove her to work long hours and to accept the brunt of supervisor’s caustic comments.

The main task was inspecting miles of printout for anomalies and it was not long before she found one…then another…and another. It was a sign of the times that her supervisor (and recipient of the Nobel Prize) was arrogantly dismissive of her excitement and was told the source was not from outer space because of the pulse’s incredible regularity, it must be man-made interference.  And so began a laborious period of eliminating all possible spurious radio sources; badly suppressed vehicles, radio waves reflected from a corrugated iron shed roof and even from the Anglian Police Force radios. With an ironic smile she recalls telling her supervisor that if a vehicle was to blame it was setting off at 4am, then at precisely 4 minutes earlier each day and had been doing so for the past 2 weeks! The source was clearly emanating from the same point on the celestial sphere. With wry humour, she told how she played along with notion that it could be a man-made source, labellng the first anomaly or ‘bit of scruff’ as LGM-1; Little Green Man-1.

She recounted that to check the recurrence of one source she would need to be using the telescope at 2am but she was due to go to her home in Ireland with her fiance that day to announce their engagement…she duly stayed up all night and also made it home. Such was her determination.

With standard plotting paper speed the anomalies were too compacted to be analysed accurately, so the paper speed had to be  increased. But this meant each paper roll would last only 20 minutes. The solution was to only increase the paper speed just before the predicted time for the repeat showing of the anomaly. Unfortunately, this meant going out to the telescope control shed in the middle of the night sometimes.

We now know (partly due to astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle) that the anomalies are pulses from neutron stars rotating very rapidly and with incredible regularity, the LGM-1 has a rotation period of 1.3 seconds. Strong radio signals are emitted along the axis of the magnetic field and because this is inclined to the axis of rotation, the radio beam points in the direction of Earth once each rotation, causing it to pulse like a beam of light from a lighthouse.

Artist conception of a pulsar with its magnetic field lines and particle jets

Pulsar: a rapidly rotating neutron star with a strong magnetic field

During an interview with a reporter from the The Guardian she was asked what the new stars were called. Burnell said she had been too busy to think about it. The reporter suggested an abbreviation of pulsatiing radio star, and that was agreed.

During the post lecture questions Burnell was asked by one of the school children in the audience about being overlooked for the Nobel Prize. She has obviously fielded this question may times and her stance is well known; research supervisors take the flak if the project flops and the credit if it succeeds, no matter how well, she explained. In those days, students were regarded as ‘support’, the ‘labourers’ poring for hours over paper charts, whereas the supervisors initiate and direct the research and as such deserve the credit. She is clearly not bitter, and has received many other accolades and honours as ample compensation. She claims that by not getting the Nobel Prize, she is in good company. She is right, take a look at the achievements of Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin (composition of the stars) and Henrietta Leavitt (Cepheid period/luminosity), both worthy candidates.

January Meteors.

The main meteor activity this month around the 3rd/4th of January with the Quadrantids peaking in the early hours of the 4th Jan. Graves decided to go off line between 09:00 and 15:00 on the 3rd Jan. ( see red block on hourly plot).

The average hourly rate during the month was 2.2, with an average daily rate of 52.3. The variations during the month are due to the combinations of minor showers during the month, these are listed in table below.

I omitted the total count for 2017 in my new year post, this was 16,727with an average daily count of 46. It will be interesting to see what Andy’s magnetic collector picks up over the year.


Radiant Duration Maximum
Zeta Aurigids December 11-January 21 Dec. 31/Jan. 1
January Boötids January 9-18 Jan. 16-18
Delta Cancrids (DCA) December 14-February 14 Jan. 17
Canids January 13-30 Jan. 24/25
Eta Carinids January 14-27 Jan. 21/22
Eta Craterids January 11-22 Jan. 16/17
January Draconids January 10-24 Jan. 13-16
Rho Geminids December 28-January 28 Jan. 8/9
Alpha Hydrids January 15-30 Jan. 20/21
Alpha Leonids January 13-February 13 Jan. 24-31
Gamma Velids January 1-17 Jan. 5-8


Happy New Year from BASMO

New year celebrations caught by the all sky camera.

Below are the daily and hourly meteor counts for December, the peaks for the Geminids and Ursids are clearly shown. Unfortunately Graves went off line between 20:00 on 13/12/17 and 08:00 on 14/12/17. The increase in activity on 31st is beginning of Quadrantids, which will be peaking on the 3/4 Jan.

Here is a comparison with December 2016, Graves went off line last December for most of the 29th Dec.

This final plot shows the daily meteor activity throughout 2017, the major showers are marked, for more information on meteor showers go to

Happy New Year

Pete Hill


November Meteors

The beginning of the month saw some varying  activity due to the Northern and southern Taurids. The Leonids around the 17/18 were preceded by higher activity on the 16th, also apparent on the comparison with 2016. Then a spike of activity on the 25th, several bright meteors were seen during the evening observing session, on the 25th,  at the SPA meeting at Preston Montford in Shropshire .

I have included the meteor information to allow comparison with data. There were no indications of the fireballs reported earlier in the week along the south coast.

Next month sees the Geminids 13/14 Dec and the Ursids, 22 Dec, with the moon position and phase favourable to both, here’s hoping for clear skies.

Finally a screenshot showing the meteor detection on the zero frequency line having adjusted the offset on the funcube dongle.

Pete Hill

Major Activity:


Duration Maximum
Leonids (LEO) November 13-20 Nov. 17/18

Moderate Activity:

Radiant Duration Maximum
Northern Taurids (NTA) October 12-December 2 Nov. 4-7
Southern Taurids (STA) September 17-November 27 Oct. 30-Nov. 7

Minor Activity

Radiant Duration Maximum
Andromedids September 25-December 6 Nov. 14/15
Alpha Monocerotids (AMO) November 13-December 2 Nov. 21
Alpha Pegasids October 29?-November 17? Nov. 1-12


October Meteors.


here are the radar meteor recordings for October, the Draconids and Orionids being the main showers of the month although hampered by poor visibility again, although the all sky camera did pick a possible Draconid on the 10th Oct ( see earlier post re:BASMO).

The results for 2016 are also included as a comparison, although rates lower, similar pattern around the Draconids and Orionids.

I have included a summary of the showers during the month to compare with the recordings.

The final image shows false readings on the radar set up, the trace is the direct signal from Graves, due to atmospheric conditions. At 46Hz above zero line, which should represent the Graves frequency, it shows that the Funcube offset is 346Hz and not 300Hz that I had been using, will adjust this for the November series.

November sees the Leonids in the early hours of the 17/18, luckily it’s a new moon, lets hope for clear skies!

Major Activity:

Radiant Duration Maximum
Orionids (ORI) October 15-29 Oct. 21

Minor Activity:

Radiant Duration Maximum
Arietids (Autumn) September 7-October 27 Oct. 8/9
Delta Aurigids (DAU) September 22-October 23 Oct. 6-15
Eta Cetids September 20-November 2 Oct. 1-5
October Cetids September 8?-October 30? Oct. 5/6
October Cygnids September 22-October 11 Oct. 4-9
Draconids (GIA) October 6-10 Oct. 9/10
Epsilon Geminids (EGE) October 10-27 Oct. 18/19
Northern Piscids October 5-16 Oct. 12/13

Daylight Activity:

Radiant Duration Maximum
Sextantids September 24-October 9 Sept. 30-Oct. 4





















































Barton All Sky & Meteor Observatory (BASMO)

The Barton All Sky & Meteor Observatory (BASMO) is now operational with the addition of the All Sky camera and realignment of aerial which has started to work loose in mount. The radio section detects the reflections of the Graves Radar signal (near |Dijon) 143.05 MHz detected using the Yagi aerial( az 140 deg , inclination 20 deg) connected to a Fundongle pro+  and signal processed using SpectrumLab on laptop. The Allsky camera runs using Ispy and is set to record video if motion detected in the selected sectors. Unfortunately the All sky camera will not show the meteors detected by the radar ( usually over southern England/ channel/ France)

Images below as follows:

  1. BASMO aerial and Allsky camera
  2. BASMO attachment of camera using wickes bracket suggested by Ed
  3. BASMO Meteor detection top, allsky camera feed bottom.
  4. Radar meteor detection, long duration trace as meteor “burns” up leaving ionised trail
  5. Radar meteor detection showing Doppler shift of approx. 100Hz as meteor approaching Graves signal slows in atmosphere.
  6. BASMO  All Sky camera pointers.
  7. All sky camera and rain drops, design fault ,Ed forgot to include wiper blades!

Click on the links to show videos .

  1. Video clip showing effect of raindrops, giving false movement as security light comes on. falsemove
  2. Video clip showing Plane overhead. Plane
  3. Video clip showing Meteor trace, probably a Draconid. Meteor

September meteors


below are the daily and hourly rates for meteors this month, average daily count of 48 and av hourly count of 2. No major showers,

Next month the Orionids peaking on 21st, the activity is already at 80+ counts with the Sextantids (daylight shower) and the Eta Cetids and October Cetids all active at the start of October.


Pete Hill































September Meteors: Minor Activity

Radiant Duration Maximum
Gamma Aquarids September 1-14 Sept. 7/8
Aries-Triangulids September 12 (?) Sept. 12
Alpha Aurigids (AUR) August 25-September 6 Sept. 1/2
Eta Draconids August 28-September 23 Sept. 12/13
Gamma Piscids August 26-October 22 Sept. 23/24
Southern Piscids (SPI) August 12-October 7 Sept. 11-20

Perseids meteor shower August12/13 (Radio Observations)

A little after the event, but has taken time downloading / checking data after my eclipse chasing.















The daily rate shows a peak on the 12th August, however checking out the hourly rate shows the maximum hourly rate occurred on the 13th August at during 7 – 8 am with a max of 30 meteors. The maximum activity on each day was concentrated in the pre dawn hours.















I noticed the odd perseid in the USA but being a lot further south the radiant was a lot lower in the sky, quite close to horizon, which made life difficult when dark spots were usually surrounded by trees! With early starts each day it wasn’t feasible to wait into the early hours.

Below is data on rest of showers during August, September offers only minor showers.


Major Activity:

Radiant Duration Maximum
Perseids (PER) July 23-August 22 Aug. 12/13

Moderate Activity

Radiant Duration Maximum
Northern Iota Aquarids (NIA) August 11-September 10 Aug. 25/26
Southern Iota Aquarids (SIA) July 1-September 18 Aug. 6/7
Alpha Capricornids (CAP) July 15-September 11 Aug. 1/2
Northern Delta Aquarids (NDA) July 16-Sepember 10 Aug. 13/14
Kappa Cygnids (KCG) July 26-September 1 Aug. 18

Minor Activity

Radiant Duration Maximum
August Eridanids August 2-27 Aug. 11/12
Upsilon Pegasids July 25-August 19 Aug. 8/9
Alpha Ursa Majorids August 9-30 Aug. 13/14

Daylight Activity

Radiant Duration Maximum
Gamma Leonids August 14-September 12 Aug. 25/26


Clear Skies

Pete Hill