Trying to find Southern meteors....
After the sucessful operation of the Jodrell Bank Observatory Meteor Detector (JBOMD) for over a year now, I'm trying to set one up here in Perth. Luckily, there was a scanning receiver in the lab identical to the one the JBOMD is using so all my control scripts work out of the box. Over the summer break (yes, it's hot down here at this time if year) I've set the thing up on the roof with a dipole and a little amplifier and set it scanning a bunch of frequencies in order to find a likely place to spot some meteors, logging to a laptop so that all I have to do is check the data when I go back to work.
Meteor test setup at Curtin. Top: the setup in the starwell. Bottom: the antenna - not the dish in the background, that's a proper radio telescope, the antenna is the thing strung between the two chairs (yes, I know it looks a bit Heath Robinson) CREDIT: Megan
What you need is a transmitter in the TV band which is far enough away that you don't normally pick up the signal, but near enough that there is still enough power after the signal has bounced off the ionised trail of a meteor in the upper atmosphere and traveled back to your antenna. What I've found so far is lots of funky-looking interference, but no meteors. It's early days yet, and this experiment is just to investigate likely places to start looking in more detail. In the Southern hemisphere, January is a good time to be looking as the meteor rates are fairly high.
There was another cool view of the planets last week. One great thing about living on the river is the fantastic low horizon to the west. This shot was taken from the top of the bridge over the freeway at about quarter to ten in the evening on December 29th. Mercury is there, honest, you might have to play with the contrast on your monitor to see it though. High above them was Venus shining away brightly, but my old little camera isn't quite that good (it's now six years old and the battery cover is held on with gaffer tape...).
Jupiter, Mercury and the Moon, December 29th 2008 CREDIT: Megan