Catching Falling Stars: Meteor Camera
When Dr. David Kuehn, of the PSU Department of Physics, was in New Mexico during the last of May and first half of June, one of his colleagues told me about a project that he was collaborating on with
Sandia National Labs.
"It involves using hundreds o extremely low-light level security cameras and fish-eye lenses pointed at the nighttime sky," says Kuehn. "Pairs of these are placed within a few miles of each other and a continuous video stream is buffered. When a meteor shows up, the video signal is saved to hard disk and forwarded to a central repository. With knowledge of the location of the cameras and bit of geometry, one can figure out altitude, velocity, perhaps orbits of these objects."
Kuehn's colleague offered him one "leftover" camera. While the camera never arrived, it gave Kuehn an idea.
"With some year-end money, I purchased parts--cameras, lenses, domes, digitizing boards, etc-and some interested students helped me build the cameras."
Kuehn, at the behest of a colleague, is delving into writing some better software for the project.
In the meantime, Kuehn has captured some photos and videos of falling stars.
"I am presenting a paper at the 2011 Astronomical Society of the Pacific meeting about how these cameras will be used to obtain heights, velocities, and orbits and that middle and high school students will be able to participate in the project," says Kuehn. "My goal is to find funding to equip area schools so that students will have an exciting, on-going experiment to work on. Perhaps this would increase interest in mathematics and science interest in the process."
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