Testing radio astronomy equipment to determine whether it is capable of detecting meteors

I have been experiencing difficulty detecting meteors at LRO.

Today, I obtained the following advice from my radio amateur friend, Bill Watson. As the advice is particularly useful, I felt I needed to pass it on:

If I can detect the GB3VHF Kent Beacon 144.430KHz at LRO then I will be able to pick up meteors from Graves’ radar. Simply put, if this signal can be detected by my meteor radio scatter detection equipment then I should be able to detect meteors adequately for meteor rate recording. The signal will not be large but it will be detectable. If I can not detect the Kent Beacon then I will not be able to detect meteors.

To detect the Kent beacon set receiver to 144.430KHz and CW mode. The beacon is always on (unlike meteor showers!) so if I can’t detect it then there is a problem with my set-up.

(Note Graves is on 143.049MHz and side band).

There is also something else that this test will do which is important – many radio receiver dongles are not accurate on their frequency and the user needs to determine an offset frequency. Once determined this can usually be entered into the software settings to correct the dongle’s frequency. If this has not been done then the frequency on the computer will be inaccurate and meteors will not be detected because the dongle is not correctly set to Grave’s frequency.

To determine the offset simply find the Kent beacon around 144.430KHz – any difference in frequency shown on PC from 144.430KHz is the offset frequency needed.

At LRO (Lichfield Radio Observatory) we are using Moxon aerial (homemade by Bill), FunCube Dongle Pro Plus, Spectrum Lab software, for radio meteor scatter detection from Graves in France.