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20 Aurigid meteors (video 8.8Mb Mpg)

This video contains some 20 Aurigids imaged between 10:53 and 11:45 UT. Notice how the light from several meteors gets reflected by the airplane wing in the lower right corner of the field of view.

Aurigid outburst: September 7, 2007 - Preliminary counts
Some preliminary 10 minute counts from the wide field camera. FOV=50 degrees wide by 25 degrees high. Times are possibly inaccurate and need to be shifted slightly ahead or back.

10 minute period UTC Count Count brighter or
equal to Mag 0
10:53:37 - 11:03:378 1
11:03:37 - 11:13:3717 10
11:13:37 - 11:23:3720 7
11:23:37 - 11:33:3713 7
11:33:37 - 11:43:3712 3
11:43:37 - 11:53:376 3

Overall: 10:53:37 to 11:53:37UTC - 76 meteors total 31 brighter or equal to m1=0

Aurigid outburst: September 6, 2007 - Video time exposure
Several Aurigids; I'm building a video time exposure
several Aurigid meteors

Aurigid outburst: September 5, 2007 - A brief account
Well, here is a brief account of the Aurigid MAC mission. I will add more to this including pictures as the next few days go by.

Thursday afternoon, August 30, after flying in to San Jose airport from Baltimore Maryland and arriving at the SETI institute, I unwrapped the meteor tracker instrument and video gear that I had shipped via FedEx. Everything arrived intact except the clear plastic bin that held the video gear. The tub was shattered but fortunately, the equipment survived in tact. All was well. I mounted the mirrors, checked the alignment and started mating the spectrograph to the tracker mount. we then attended a general meeting about the flight, took a look at sky maps, flight paths, and got an idea as to the details of the mission.

Seeing the various experiments people were preparing was very interesting and it was great to see people I'd met before, and also those that I hadn't. The English and French traded various jokes about each other, they are quite clever and amusing!

Later in the afternoon, we headed to AMES Research Center flight line to set up instruments in the airplanes which were both Gulfstream G5s. We later received a safety inspection of sorts and then the plane I was on, went on a two hour test flight to ensure things were indeed up and running with no power issues, glitches or unforeseen anomalies. During the flight, there were several small thunderstorms below which were impressive in the image intensified screens. Fortunately we didn't roast anything. Shortly after landing we all headed to the hotel to sleep for the rest of the night.

Friday waking up, came really late for me. I was up by 7:00 am California time (10 AM EST) and shattered long duration record or something. I met with a few others that were up early but we were all not really able to (or supposed to) do anything until 7:00 pm at which time we headed back out to the airplanes at AMES, for the event! The agenda was to rest up of the day.

We arrived at the AMES flight line just before 7:00 pm and Geoff calibrated his spectrograph with his helper outside the airplane standing on a ladder holding some calibration lights. It was difficult to do this because of all the millions of lights in the background field of view.

We took off and shortly after crossing 10,00 ft, started setting up. All gear had to be stowed for takeoff and landing, not only the seat backs. To stow and unpack, we formed somewhat of a human chain to pass the gear forward from the aft storage compartment. It worked well and saved time.

After setup and some initial calibrations and tweaking, we took a couple of hours of data surrounding the expected time of the peak. The meteor tracker tracked several meteors with four bright events in one little specific area of the sky in a short period of time. It was exciting to see it on the screen as I never really monitor it in real time; the meteor tracker is automatic and hands off. I do not know if Geoff was able to obtain spectra though. I was unfamiliar with it so had little clue as to what I was seeing in his video screen.

I have not yet completed a timed count of the wide field video but hope to do so soon. Basically, the AMI-IT meteor tracker was used for data that I did not record. I did record only my wide field camera. I certainly hope all came out well and do not know how long it will take for the results of Geoff's experiment.

I thank the American Meteor Society for helping me to participate in this event.

Dr. Peter Jenniskens, Aurigid MAC PI
Jeremie Vaubaillon of Caltech
Group Photo
Lining up for a group shot...
The confident Jeremie Vaubaillon
Mission briefing
Happy after the mission!
Hanger One
Crepuscular Tarmac Rays
Moon image 1
Moon image 2
Moon image 3
Moon Image 4

Aurigid outburst: September 3, 2007 - preliminary stuff
Wow, what an event! It was a confirmation of a meteor stream model developed by Dr. Jeremie Vaubaillon of Caltech and Dr. Peter Jenniskens.

4 Bright Aurigids in less than 5 minutes!  2.7Mb MPG Video
4 bright meteors

This is a very rough composite of 4 meteors and I have loads of data to parse so more images will be posted soon. This image shows the airplane wing in the lower left side with reflections on the wing's leading edge, of the 4 brigtht meteors above. - 10 meteors were picked up in the 4 minute 45 second period (this one 1Gb video segment), in the wide field camera pointing to a fairly high peak ZHR.

Aurigid outburst: August 31, 2007
Last night we took a test flight out of AMES and successfully mated the USAF spectrograph to the meteor tracker. There were an abundance of lightning strikes below the plane and in our field of view. It was impressive to see and hopefully, there will be a sprite or two in the video I captured.

Everyone on the plane is ready for the main event and the excitement level and anticipation is very high. Jeremie Vaubaullion is confident of his predictions for this event to materialize. Dr. Jenniskens is truely amazing in his ability and success to put together these airborn campaigns together.

It was great to see several people I've met over the years and others that I have never met. A wonderful time is being had by all!

Preparations for imaging the Aurigid outburst;
The meteor tracker (AIM-IT) instrument was shipped last week and I've received the itinerary and will be on the right side of one of the two planes. This will put the radiant somewhere around 240 degrees with respect to the SW direction of travel meaning I'll be aiming at the meteor's backside. Being on the right side of the plane fits well with the meteor tracker's mount arm that will hold the high frame-rate spectrograph. It might allow the instrument to be angled further towards a point opposite the radiant, lessening the phase angle, which will lessen the tracking needs allowing more mirror stability and longer uninterrupted runs of obtaining spectra. Plans are to run the spectrograph at 500 frames per second which should yield 16 spectra per video frame. Hopefully, we will not have any trouble integrating the spectrograph with the meteor tracker. It will be done late in the game but a fall back plan is for the tracker to image an 8x6 degree FOV in unfiltered light with its usual PC164 ExView High Res camera. The spectrograph will be mounted in a fixed direction.

I fly out to San Jose early Thursday morning. Been a couple of years. I'll need a window seat to prevent me from whining like a kid.

Last week, I integrated a new set of stepper motors and electronics that Pete Gural and I had built for a set of identical meteor trackers. This set is much newer and just a little crisper in tracking and overrun and backlash are lessened by maybe one video field or somehere around 10ms. The change also prevents the need for additional shaft overrun dampening that I'd employed on the old set of motors.

Preparations for imaging the Aurigid outburst;
August 17, 2007
We will attempt to integrate a high frame rate spectrograph into the meteor tracker but rather late in the game. I still need to drill a series of holes in the mount so it can be positioned precisely where needed. I also need to screw small rubber cushioners in to the mount bottom to dampen any vibrations caused by the plane.

Preformed several tests of the software as to be able to precisely match the speed of the meteors based on a high phase angle. It is called fine tuning. The radiant will be behind the plane with gear looking out both sides basically boradside or at a 90 degree angle with respect to the radiant. In this case, the full speed of the meteors will be apparent where as looking near the radiant, the meteors are foreshortened and visually brighter because of a much smaller angle. I think in this case, it will be best to aim the instrument back towards the radiant as much as possible, in order to gather more light as the spectrograph does better with brighter things (as brightness is a function of time with a higher frame rate; faster the rate, the dimmer the image). Additional tests show placement of the mirrors will allow the meteor to be observed between the middle and edge of the spectrograph or camera's FOV, to match up with the diffraction grating blaze angles and while also aligning the spectra across the collector's long dimension. In this case, the spectrograph is rotated 90 degrees with respect to up and down.

I'm taking a tera-byte disk instead of tapes because I can record the video stream without dropping frames or impacting the tracker's speed. Firewire made this possible where using USB 2 actually chokes the frame rate down in a strange way. When the meteor tracker is quiet and not doing anything, the USB 2 data writing drops a frame or two every two or three seconds where firewire drops maybe only 10 frames per hour. However, when the tracker tracks, no frames are lost ever with USB 2. Go figure.
Preparations for imaging the Aurigid outburst; Perseids, peak night...
August 13, 2007
The skies were pretty skunky but by 3:00am local time, I was able to start shooting. Limiting magnitude was around mag 3 with thick haze. The meteor tracker tracked very well.
Click here for larger image    Image 2
Image of Perseid.

Preparations for imaging the Aurigid outburst; Perseids, the night before peak...
August 12, 2007
Had good skies last night into this morning and the meteors were abundant with several Perseids seen and imaged! I spent too little time focusing the high resolution camera, another lesson learned after the fact. Tracking and stability were good. Stability and backlash dampening is best achieved when velcro (fuzzy side) is used to wrap around the mirror drive shafts. Created mount for high frame-rate spectrograph (not shown) that elevates instrument to around 25 degrees.
Click here for larger image
Image of AIM-IT meteor tracker.

Image of Perseid.
Perseid Image 1 (above) Perseid Image 2 Perseid Image 3 Perseid Image 4

Preparations for imaging the Aurigid outburst; the AIM-IT Meteor Tracker
August 11, 2007
AIM-IT Meteor Tracker This is a picture of the meteor tracker. I'm optimizing and testing things, getting it ready for the Aurigid outburst on September 1. The instrument will be imaging with a high frame rate spectrograph operated and provided by the USAF. The spectrograph is capable of 10,000 frames per second (fps) for much brighter objects but will probably be run around 500 fps for the Aurigids.

I will also be imaging the Perseid meteor shower tonight and tomorrow night (Aug 11/12 Aug 12/13) as my location will experience rather good skies for the mid-Atlantic area, for this time of year. Typically, only magnitude 2 or brighter stars have been visible for most Perseid events I've viewed from here but this time, it looks really promising and there will be a new moon! Stay tuned for images!
Click here for larger image
Image of AIM-IT meteor tracker.