SCAMP (the System for Capture of Asteroid and Meteorite Paths) is a network of all-sky digital cameras based in the UK and Ireland
The cameras help us to recover freshly-fallen meteorites and to calculate exactly where they came from. It allows us to sample the solar system without leaving Earth.
SCAMP’s existing camera locations are shown below. As SCAMP is part of the French FRIPON network, some of FRIPON’s European cameras are also shown. They will record many of the same fireballs that SCAMP detects, and so will help us find meteorites that land in the UK or Ireland.
As well as recording fireball events, each camera captures an image every ten minutes. You can view that latest image by clicking on the red or blue map points below and then on the camera name, e.g. Cardiff or EastBarnet.
The SCAMP network is fully operational. However, it will eventually have ten times as many cameras as it does now. The planned UK and Irish network will look something like the map below, where target sites are shown in grey (zoom in to see more detail).
Fireballs glow about 100km above us when fast-moving pieces of rock or dust hit Earth’s atmosphere. Two cameras about 100km apart let us calculate the fireball’s path, and so what its orbit must have been before it hit the Earth’s atmosphere. If three or four cameras capture the fireball then the calculation can be very accurate, even allowing for clouds or bad visibility. To cover the UK and Ireland with cameras about 100km apart, we need about 72 cameras. In the UK on average we should see several meteorites landing every year, and having a comprehensive camera network will help us find them.
Triangulation with three or four cameras works well for the first few seconds when the fireball glows brightly in the upper atmosphere. However, once the meteoroid reaches the thicker lower atmosphere (but still well above where planes fly) it slows down quickly and stops glowing. It’s then in freefall for a few minutes (yes, minutes not seconds) and is blown about by the wind as it falls. FRIPON has a mathematical model of this “Dark Flight” phase that uses current wind conditions at different altitudes to predict where meteorites of different sizes and shapes might land.
FRIPON/SCAMP cameras take 30 frames of video per second, each frame like the one below from the Canterbury camera.
The camera’s fish-eye lens captures the whole sky, which is why the image is circular. When the system detects movement, it saves the stack of frames taken during that period and works out the path of the object across the background of stars. By comparing the paths calculated by two, three or more cameras, a trajectory for the object can be calculated. Here’s an example of a long, flat trajectory calculated by FRIPON. This particular meteorite was calculated to have landed in the ocean in September 2019.
If it looks as though a meteorite has dropped in the UK or Ireland, we’ll go looking for it. In Great Britain the UK Fireball Alliance (UKFall, www.ukfall.org.uk) will put together a search team very quickly and try to find the meteorite before it gets too altered by rain or dirt. A similar group is being formed for meteorite recovery on the island of Ireland. Any meteorites recovered using SCAMP will be donated to the UK Natural History Museum or other UK or Irish museums or universities, along with all images and data recorded.
Individuals or institutions are very welcome to join the SCAMP network. You’ll need to buy your own camera system which we can source for you for about £1,750. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SCAMP cameras run unattended and need very little intervention. The camera has a web interface so its images and calculations can be seen from any computer.
Every couple of months we send out a brief update on developments in the SCAMP network. Please sign up here. We won’t provide your e-mail address to third parties.
UKMON uses very sensitive cameras that capture very faint meteors at night, whereas SCAMP/FRIPON only detects very bright meteors and will eventually operate during the day as well.
The FRIPON network of more than 100 all-sky digital cameras launched in France in 2016. SCAMP is the implementation of the FRIPON network in the UK and Ireland. To learn more about FRIPON, go to www.fripon.org.
In meteor science there are lots of words for the same thing. To help you navigate your way through it, let’s start from when the rock is still in space, follow it through the atmosphere and end when it’s on the ground.