UKMON sets up a camera for The Sky at Night

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In July UKMON was delighted to receive a call from The Sky at Night asking if we could help with a broadcast. Alastair Duncan, the programme producer explained that the September programme would look at asteroids and the US and Japanese attempts at an asteroid sample return. Regular viewers will know that programme content is topical and this broadcast coincides with the start of asteroid operations by the OSIRIS-REx mission which this month is expected to capture its first image of its target, the asteroid Bennu. Alastair was interested to discuss the connection between meteors and asteroids and what could be learned from our observations.

The outcome of the discussion was that UKMON would help set up a The Sky at Night meteor camera which would be part of a feature in the upcoming broadcast. Richard Kacerek and Peter Campbell-Burns spent a warm and sunny afternoon with Peter Lawrence setting up the camera at his home in Selsey. Peter Lawrence is a well-known presenter and resident imaging expert on The Sky at Night television programme. He also writes many of the guides used by the BBC to support the programme and is a regular contributor to The Sky at Night Magazine.

We installed a CCTV camera and lens into a weatherproof enclosure which was then mounted on the eaves Peter’s log cabin / office. With Peter Campbell-Burns looking after the hardware and cabling Richard Kacerek was able to concentrate on installing and setting up the software. The weather remained clear for the rest of the evening and camera captured its first meteors that very night.

Filming for the programme took place at the end of August. We will not see the results until it is broadcast but Peter tells us that he is presenting video observation as an exciting new way of meteor capture. He describes the waterproof housing and power on/off arrangements before describing how he had caught several trails on the first night out. Most importantly he tells the viewers that they can make a serious contribution to meteor science.

UKMON extends a very warm welcome to Pete Laurence and Sky at Night and we look forward to any future opportunities to work with The Sky at Night Team.

The programme will be broadcast on BBC 4 at 10pm on Sunday the 9th of September and that it will be available to watch on BBC iPlayer. Viewers can tweet the programme @BBCStargazing.