Radio Astronomy

First radio observations at Peter Bolas Observatory – Radio Meteor Scatter from Graves of Lyrid Meteor Shower – 6/5/2019

Radio Scatter Graves Radar Peter Bolas Observatory Rosliston Forestry Centre,

Lyrid Meteor Shower,

6/5/2019 @ 10:30
Andrew Thornett

Successful detection of Lyrid meteor shower at the new Peter Bolas Observatory during an observatory working party session on Bank Holiday Monday.

The surprise was the frequency of meteors shown on screenshots below – there are up to 11/12 meteors evident on singe screenshots!

On Saturday, we had an outreach day and had difficulty getting radio scatter to work. Eventually we found a broken wire in the aerial end of the aerial cable at its connection – a temporary Heath Robinson approach got it working. Since then, I have soldered the connection and today was a chance to test it.
I also changed laptop from my (expensive, cant afford to lose it) main laptop to a spare Dell PC that is 10 years old and not the end of the world were it to get broken or stolen!
Trying it out today – I could not seem to get good signal through the microphone port on this new machine but I had a spare USB microphone port which I plugged in and the laptop and Spectrum Lab successfully detected the microphone and almost immediately meteors were seen on the screen – great success!


Photos of myself observing meteors by radio scatter at Rosliston & serial screenshots at 1 minute intervals from Spectrum Lab:

Successful detection meteors by radio scatter from Graves 143.049MHz at Rosliston Forestry Centre

During today’s science outreach event at Rosliston Forestry Centre, Bob and I achieved successful detection of meteors from Graves by radio scatter on 143.049MHz, on my silver Dell laptop running Windows 10/Spectrum Lab software, together with Yaesu FT-817 radio & 2 element Yagi on Clansman mast.

Bob and I set up an aerial to detect meteors by radio scatter – initially unsuccessful until we found a broken wire! Once fixed in a rather Heath Robinson way (indebted to Lee Bale without whom we could not have got this working today), we detected a fair number of meteors (a few screenshots below).


Meteors detected by radio scatter today:


Meteor radio scatter equipment:

     Making a hole to insert bottom of meteor radio scatter aerial:


April Meteors

A total of 1571 meteors were detected in April, using the reflected radar signal from Graves.

The daily average was 52 with a maximum of 121 on 23rd April. The hourly average was 2 with a max of 13 between10:00 -11:00 on 23rd.

The months activity started off quieter than last year, although the peak activity was higher, the Lyrids peak on the 22nd April, although both years show a peak on the 23rd, this is probably a combination of the Lyrids and Pi puppids (18 -25 april, peak 23rd). The non directionality of the detector makes it difficult to ascribe any count to a particular shower.

The increase in activity at end of month heralds the approach of the Eta Aquarids which peak on 6th May, with the moon only a few days old.

March Meteors.

March is not noted for any major shower and the months count is made up of sporadics and contributions from minor showers.

The total count for the month was 1497, with an average daily total of 48, with a maximum of 91 for the 14th march. The hourly average was 2, with a maximum of 11 between 3-4am on 4th March. The signal from graves appears to have gone down between 07:00 on 20th to 19:00 on 21st but I have no confirmation. The count from the 21st to the end of the month was lower than the early part of the month, the opposite to last year ..( see last chart 2018-2019)

April sees the Lyrids shower peaking on the 22nd, coinciding with a bright, just past full moon.

February Meteors



Not noted for its meteor showers, February displays some minor meteor showers not noted for high visibility but detectable using the reflected radar signal from Graves.

The three element Yagi / fundongle pro+set up detected 1744 meteors in February. The hourly average was 2.6 / hr with an hourly maximum of 10 between 00:02 – 00:03 on 5th Feb. The daily average was 62.3 with a daily maximum of 79 on 4th Feb..

The hourly and daily plots are shown below as well as a comparison of daily counts for the last 3 years.

March is also a “quiet” month with no notable showers.


Pete Hill









January Meteors.

Based upon the reflections of the Graves radar signal 2546 meteors were detected in January.

The daily average was 82 with a maximum of 289 on 4thJan.

The hourly average was 3.4 with  an hourly max of 51 between 3-4 am on 4th Jan, there was a secondary peak of max 21 between 10-11 am on the same day.

The peak activity on the 4th represented the Quadrantid meteor shower peaking at 3-4am , Sky at Night (jan) magazine suggested that the secondary maximum would be due to the debris from the 1974 visitation of comet 46P which was visible during January.

There are several minor showers also present during January.

Below are the daily and hourly plots for January, the two distinct peaks are visible on the hourly count, the red bar indicates where Graves was off line between 17:00 on the 13th to 07:00 on the 14th.

The last plot is a comparison with the 2018 data.

December Meteors.

Did anyone catch a Geminid or even an Ursid?? Based on reflected signals from the Graves radar installation 3641 meteors were detected over the month of December. The average daily rate was 5 meteors / hr. with a maximum hourly count of 55 between 4-5 am on Dec 14th. The average daily rate was 118 with a maximum of 468 on the 14th Dec. Both maximums coincided with the peak of the Geminid Shower, the data showed that the best time to have viewed the shower was from 2- 6 am before, after and during the peak of activity.  There is a small peak around the 22/23 rd Dec from the Ursid shower. The pick up at the end of the month points towards the peak of the Quadrantids  around the 4th Jan.

The daily and hourly counts for the month are below, finally there is a comparison of the December activity  over the last 3 years. Although the levels are different the trends are fairly similar, the peaks of the Geminids and Ursids clearly visible in each data set.

The conditional actions settings for the spectrum lab software are the same for 2018 & 2017 but different to those in 2016. The difference in the 2017 and 2018 counts could reflect the different densities of the dust trails caused by the variations in the parent comets emissions.

November Meteors 2018.

Not much chance of visual meteor spotting over the month , but the radar setup based on the Graves 140.05 MHz signal continued to record data.

The maximum number of meteors detected over November was 2701. The average daily rate was 90 with a maximum of 135 on 20th of Nov.

The average hourly rate was 4 (3.8) with a maximum of 21 between 9am and 10am on the 20th.

The major shower in November is the Leonids, active between the 6 -30 with a peak on 17/18,  Also Taurids active between Oct 12 – Dec 2 with the Southern branch peaking on Nov 5 and the Northern Branch on the 12th.

There are also a number of other minor showers active over the month:

Andromedids  peaking on 27th

Theta Aurigids, 15th -21st peak 19th

Omicron Erianids  14th – 29th peak 22nd

Alpha Monocerotoids 13th Nov – 2nd Dec peak 21st

Chi Taurids peak Nov 2nd.

It is difficult to isolate any one shower in the data, but the hourly data shows a definite peak around the 20th, probably the sum of those showers active during that date.

The final chart shows a comparison of data from 2016 -2018, although levels vary , certainly the 2017 and 2018 data seem to mirror each other.

Next month sees the Geminid shower 6th – 19th peaking 13th /14th, with the moon set at around 22:00 there should be some good viewing around midnight. The Ursid shower peaks on the 22nd but a full moon will make observations difficult. Finally if Comet 46P/Wirtanen peaks as predicted it should be easily visible between the Pleiades and Aldebaran on 16th Dec.