UK Meteor Network started as a citizen science project by a few amateur astronomers in 2012
Amateur astronomers have always made a significant contribution to the field of meteor astronomy from its earliest beginnings with visual observations. Whilst visual observations remain a valuable source of data the advent of computer technologies has provided astronomers with new tools and techniques to monitor the night sky, and the ability to look out for meteors continually (weather permitting of course).
In some parts of the world observers using CCTV techniques had grouped together to form national and cross border monitoring networks such as the IMO Meteor Monitoring Network and the SonotaCo network. In 2012, when UKMON was established, only a handful of pioneering individuals were running video based monitoring stations in the UK. UKMON founders Richard Kacerek and Peter Campbell-Burns were amongst these early pioneers.
The idea for a UK network of meteor cameras grew from the realisation that to do work of any real scientific significance and value required a lot more data than can be gathered with just a couple of cameras. Encouraged by the steady growth of camera networks across Eastern and Central Europe we set ourselves a challenge - to establish the UK's first meteor observation network. UKMON was introduced to the amateur astronomy community in late 2012 and very soon we welcomed our first member, the Hampshire Astronomy Group. Since then we have grown to thirty cameras.
Put simply, UKMON is all about team work and collaboration, and having some fun along the way. It is a hobby after all, albeit one with very serious scientific intent.
Our core principle is the open sharing of data with meteor observers worldwide. This is contrary to more traditional practices where data is withheld so that contributors get “first dibs” on reports and papers. UKMON prefers instead to harness the power of collaboration rather than competition.
UKMON data is shared with the European Video Meteor Database (EDMOND) which contains millions of meteor observations from cameras across Europe. In return for sharing their data UKMON members have reciprocal access to an enormous data resource which they are free to research, analyse and report just so long as attribution is given to the data sources.
We apply the principles of openness and sharing in pretty much everything that we do.
To support team working between our geographically distant members UKMON provides a platform for communication and collaboration, sharing data and sharing expertise. At the heart of this is our web site and on-line data repository where members can upload their data and download data from other member's cameras. Another important aspect of what we do is ensuring members have access to help and support when they need it – and if we can't sort it, we usually know a man who can.
When not busy on the day to day running of UKMON we are working hard to expand our network by encourage others to join in. We have seen a huge amount of interest from the general public and have run some very successful social media campaigns via Facebook, Twitter and via our website. Our online meteor watch events have been hugely successful in generating public interest and we thoroughly enjoyed interacting with a global audience. Science can be great fun!
UKMON contributes to, and collaborates with, other networks across Europe using video data acquisition technologies, and an important part of our work is to ensure that our members can benefit from the knowledge and experience of a much wider meteor observer community. There is always something to learn. Our European collaborators are involved in some very exciting projects, such as spectrographic analysis of meteors and using high altitude balloon platforms.
Here are just some of the networks with which we share data and expertise:
Richard Kacerek and Mike Hankey at IMC 2013
Edmond and Cement team at IMC 2013
Installation of new camera in Cardiff
First UKMON conference at Norman Lockyer Observatory