SCAMP (the System for Capture of Asteroid and Meteorite Paths) is a network of all-sky digital cameras based in the UK
SCAMP detects and records bright fireballs so any resulting meteorite can be found using triangulation and Dark Flight analysis.
Any meteorites recovered using SCAMP will be donated to UK museums or universities, along with all images and data recorded.
SCAMP is part of an international effort to recover meteorites that are seen to fall and to pair them with their pre-entry orbits. So, for example if a Martian meteorite falls (about 135 pieces of Mars have been found on Earth so far) and its calculated pre-entry orbit doesn’t cross the orbit of Mars, there’s some interesting science to do!
At the moment there are three cameras in the SCAMP network. On a clear night when all three are operating, they provide excellent coverage of the Midlands and most of Wales, with good two-camera coverage of East Anglia, Western Wales and the Southern Home Counties.
The cameras are identical to those used in the French FRIPON network and run the same software, so observations from the FRIPON and SCAMP networks can be combined.
During 2017 and 2018 we’d like to increase the number of SCAMP cameras to ten or more, adding cameras in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the English regions. If you want to host a SCAMP camera, we’re happy to tell you how.
The FRIPON network of more than 100 all-sky digital cameras launched in France in 2016. SCAMP is the UK version of the FRIPON network, using the same cameras and software. SCAMP has been set up by amateur astronomers and meteoriticists in the UK and has no formal affiliation with the FRIPON project. The PRISMA network in Italy also uses the same technology as FRIPON.
UKMON uses very sensitive cameras that capture very faint meteors at night, whereas SCAMP is optimised for very bright meteors and will eventually operate during the day as well.
Meteorite-dropping events (usually called bolides or super-bolides) are many times brighter than the planets and often brighter than the full moon. Meteorites are just as likely to arrive during the day as during the night; for example the Sutter’s Mill meteorite arrived in California at 7:51 in the morning in 2012 and the huge Chelyabinsk meteorite arrived in Russia on a February afternoon in 2013. Eventually the SCAMP cameras will be operated 24/7 whereas UKMON cameras are too sensitive to do this.
To detect meteors in the video feed from each camera, the UKMON Network uses proprietary Japanese software that’s ideal for observing sporadic meteors and meteor showers, whereas SCAMP uses the FRIPON project’s open-sourced FreeTure software that’s been designed to track meteorite falls.
You’re very welcome to join the SCAMP network. You’ll need to buy your own camera, computer and other bits and pieces and set them up yourself, but we can certainly give tips and some informal support if you get stuck. Here’s a link to a how to guide.
SCAMP cameras are usually set up to run unattended and fully automatically, as bolide events are rare and so you’ll probably only be checking back through captures every couple of months. However, it’s your opportunity to be part of history when the next UK meteorite does fall.
Meteorites enter the atmosphere at a speed of around 50 km/s but quickly slow down as their kinetic energy turns into heat and light. By the time they reach the lower atmosphere they can be travelling at hundreds of km per hour, not much different from the speed of a rock dropped from a high altitude. At this lower speed they no longer glow and can take three or four minutes to reach the ground. This is the period of “Dark Flight”.
Wind direction and speed changes with altitude, and “Dark Flight” analysis take account of this to work out where the meteorite is likely to have landed.
Doppler weather radar is also used to track meteorites in Dark Flight. A falling meteorite will usually leave a trace on weather radar. The location of the fall can be estimated with some accuracy, so radar has been used to recover several American meteorites.
Installed in July 2016 by Alan Shuttleworth, Camera 1 was the first camera in the SCAMP network. The camera has a clear view of the (now smiling) Connaught dome and is mounted between the observatory’s two UKMON cameras, as shown below.
Installed in October 2016, Camera 2 is mounted on the disused chimney of a private house in East Barnet, North London. From this vantage point it can catch events over the Channel, the North Sea, the Midlands and Wales.
Installed in June 2017, Camera 3 is high on the roof of a building in the centre of Manchester. Although taken on a wet day, the Manchester skyline can just be made out in the view from the camera.