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  Cherryvalley Observatory

 

Mike Foylan is the owner of Cherryvalley Observatory in Co Meath in Ireland.

 

Here is an introduction to Mike, Cherryvalley Observatory and his association with NEMETODE:

 

"As an amateur astronomer I have always been fascinated by the night sky since a young age. Today, many orbits later that much has not changed, however the biggest and most rapid change I have experienced is in improved technologies, its applications and how these are used by the amateur astronomer.

 

A chance meeting in 2006 with Dr. Apostolos Christou based in Armagh Observatory Northern Ireland demonstrated to me how this modern technology could bring the night sky indoors in real-time through off-the-shelf equipment using highly sensitive B&W video cameras, fast lenses and a home PC and all for a reasonable outlay. I was so impressed with viewing in real-time a starry background on a computer screen which included the occasional passing aircraft, bat, bird, satellites and of course meteors which is why the Armagh Observatory camera cluster system was commissioned that I decided there and then I would have my own system. There was great appeal in having a system that would record the night sky automatically for any transient events, even when I slept and where I could review those videos next morning, a system that worked reliably and required very little maintenance and input from my side once setup.

 

Eventually I setup two cameras at my observatory (Cherryvalley Observatory) based in rural Co. Meath Ireland. Not all was plane sailing however in the early days, I had to quickly learn about soldering, electronics, wiring, optics, CCTV technology and grapple with the UFO Software suite which collects, analyses and extracts useful science data from those videos but the effort was worth it and today still gives me great satisfaction knowing that the information gathered from my camera system and other NEMETODE members is added to scientifically useful data sets.

 

In late 2013 I came across an excellent written article in the BAA journal by William Stewart and Alex R. Pratt entitled “A Modern Video Meteor Detection System and Network – Overview and Typical Costs” after reading the article I immediately contacted the authors and thus my association with NEMETODE was underway, it was both exciting and very satisfying to work with people with the same interests in pursuit of the same goals, the best part was being part of a knowledgeable and experienced team which now included people from as far afield as Normandy in France, to the highlands of Scotland to Galway Ireland something which would have been of great value to me back in the early days when I first started this journey alone grappling with all the complexities. Thus new friendships were formed in the process.

 

So what can such a camera system do, well here is a typical example of great team collaboration of a meteor event which occurred recently on May 11th at 1:06 UT and was captured on video by three stations; David Anderson based in Dunure South Ayrshire, Graham Roche based in Dublin Ireland and Cherryvalley Observatory Meath Ireland. The three stations combined their data (triangulation) using software used by the NEMETODE team and using precise timing to determine important characteristics such as trajectory, velocity, radiant and establish a meteoroid’s orbit accurately about the Sun. As can be seen from these plots initial detection was 84 km in height and last detection was at a height of 68 km approximately moving at an average velocity of 13.5km/s, estimated magnitude -0.2 and classed as a sporadic. Contributions from NEMETODE team member William Stewart based in Ravensmoor, Cheshire, calculated that the object had a mass of 170g and diameter of 40mm approximately. A fragmentation event was recorded as the meteor exited the field of view from Cherryalley Observatory’s North-East facing camera."
 

 

1.-ground-map-ablation-layer
1.-ground-map-ablation-layer

Representation of ground map showing each station’s camera orientation and sky coverage (ablation layer). In order to have multi-station meteor captures cameras of the NEMETODE network are carefully aligned to maximise ablation layer coverage in order to extract very accurate information from later analysis. The different colours represent different altitudes above the ground. Typically, meteors are visible between altitudes of 80 and 120km (over 10 times the typical cruising altitude of a passenger jet). The red represents 80km, the light blue 100km and the dark blue 120km. The almost transparent white is where there is single station coverage of a layer between 80km and 120km while the almost opaque white is where there is at least dual station coverage of a layer between 80km and 120km.
2.-consolidated-groundtrack
2.-consolidated-groundtrack

Consolidated ground and atmospheric track of meteor event of May 11th 1:06 am which occurred over Northern Ireland and captured by three stations of the NEMETODE network.
3.-view-from-cherryvalley-observatory
3.-view-from-cherryvalley-observatory

Meteor Image capture by the camera system of Cherryvalley observatory based in Meath Ireland.
4.-view-from-dunure.
4.-view-from-dunure.

Same meteor event imaged (see Image 3) by D. Anderson based in Dunure South Ayrshire.
5.-orbit
5.-orbit

Representation of meteoroid’s orbit from combined data of the three NEMETODE stations
6.-cherryvalley-observatory-meteor-camera-system
6.-cherryvalley-observatory-meteor-camera-system

Cherryvalley Observatory’s camera system; the north-east camera covers Scotland and the east camera covers Wales and central UK. Both video cameras are of the Watec 902 series with fast 8mm f0.8 lenses connected to a PC. Both cameras are housed in outdoor rated CCTV camera enclosures.

All imagery  and text is copyrighted by Mike Foylan

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