How it works

When a meteor strikes Earth’s atmosphere it decelerates rapidly. The ram pressure created by Earth’s atmosphere causes the meteor to burn up at extremely high temperatures creating the bright “shooting star” that we are all familiar with. This process also ionises the air along the trail making it possible to reflect radio waves.

Utilising a high powered VHF radar signal, we are able to detect reflected radar waves from these ionisation trails. Because the meteor is moving, the reflected signal is shifted in frequency, this shift being heard as an audible ping by the station operator.

Our system translates the reflected wave into three main parameters - amplitude (strength), frequency shift (Doppler shift) and decay time. This helps us determine the relative size of the meteor strike (vertical scale) and the relative approximate speed and deceleration (amount of shift and width of the trace).

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