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Graves Radar - Radio Based Meteor Detector


Al.Grant
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Wasn't sure what section to post this in ......  so it's here!


 


Having read the 2 part article in S&N mag and doing a bit of online reading I've decided to have a go at setting up a radio based meteor detector.


 


The S&N article initially got me keen to try this, but the cost of the FUNcube Pro+ dongle was a bit too much at around £150 just to 'give it a go'.  


However a bit of reading and there are SDR dongles out there being used by other people for the same purpose and they are far, far cheaper - typically between £6 - £20.


 


Reading online comparisons between these cheap dongles and the FUNcube Pro+ it seems there are benefits to both types of dongle, but the main difference is the cheap dongles would appear to have more background noise, but they still work well enough for meteor detection.


 


So my initial plan is to veer somewhat from the S&N article and use a cheap dongle and maybe replace this in future with the FUNcube Pro+.  


I have a spare desktop PC sitting idle, so this will be used to keep the meteor detector running 24hrs a day. The software of choice for this seems to be Spectrum Lab and this works with either dongle.


 


Of course this needs an antenna.  Here's where I may have been lucky and have managed to borrow a spare HAM 2M yagi antenna that covers the 144-146Mhz band (same as this image).   


m1ZLUEriwKgpCUkJmyAm0pA.jpg


 


The GRAVES radar transmits on 143.050 Mhz but as I'm only receiving I've been told this should work fine. I've been told it should give much higher gain than the homebrew S&N one, which I'm hoping will make up for some of the extra noise from cheap dongle.


I think the main benefit will be that it's smaller (60cm) and much lighter so should mean it's easier to mount, if it doesn't work then I'll make one but assuming it's OK then I'll may end up buying a similar one (costs around £30-40 new).


 


 


Once I have all this working (nothing like optimism) I plan to keep this detector up and running 24/7. The software can work unattended, which is fortunate as the majority of hits seem to be in the early hours.  


These meteor detectors are pretty much immune to the weather (not sure about lightning though!) and will also pick up other objects transiting the beam, these include aircraft, the ISS and the moon.  All leave different traces on the software.


 


 


Ok so that's the plan and it could all go wrong, but that's why I've initially bought the cheap dongle and borrowed an antenna, so failure won't be costly.  If it all goes well then I may invest in the better dongle.


 


Current progress:


 


> I have a dongle!


> I have the PC and Spectrum Lab software.


> The antenna should be with me in a few days - My (very understanding) wife is ok with this 'nice looking' antenna being mounted, rather than the 'ugly looking' wood and copper piping S&N one!


 


 


Once I have all the bits I'll post some pics, in the meantime this Britastro pdf on radio based Meteor Detection gives a great overview with far more detail than the S&N article     http://dk5ec.de/Graves-Echo-english.pdf


 


And this is what the meteor pings actually sound like  http://skycamcliff.hardcoredreamer.com/Meteoraudio/Audio_21st_feb_2013_meteors.wav  Reminds me of old B&W WW2 movie sonar pings - ('meteors above' or 'enemy below')


 


 


 


Al


 


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Guest peepshow

You can listen to a live audio feed from


Stan Nelson who uses a Yagi antenna in New Mexico to detect 54 MHz TV signals reflected from meteor trails. When a meteor passes over his observatory--ping!--there is an echo.


 


 


http://spaceweatherradio.com/


 


I've just I listened for 5 minutes but no meteors yet. :)


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You can listen to a live audio feed from

Stan Nelson who uses a Yagi antenna in New Mexico to detect 54 MHz TV signals reflected from meteor trails. When a meteor passes over his observatory--ping!--there is an echo.

 

 

http://spaceweatherradio.com/

 

I've just I listened for 5 minutes but no meteors yet. :)

 

 

The Spectrum Lab software will play the audio pings and I think you can stream live audio from that, but not sure on exactly how.

 

There is some free software 'colorgramme' that takes the data from Spectrum Lab and produces and hourly meteor hit histogram.

These can be shared online here  http://www.rmob.org/livedata/mainlong.php

 

There are some HF 50mhz beacons in Europe that get used. It seems the range isn't great for the UK so 143.050 Mhz seems to be the more popular one.

 

Need to get some cable and BNC connectors in the next day or so.

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Guest peepshow

The Spectrum Lab software will play the audio pings and I think you can stream live audio from that, but not sure on exactly how.

 

If you google               audio output spectrum labs

there's plenty of info there to overwhelm us all............don't forget the stars though. :D

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Does the Yagi need to be vertical or horizontal? Be prepared to try both it can be very different!  :)


 


Cheers


Ron 


G0IBI


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Does the Yagi need to be vertical or horizontal? Be prepared to try both it can be very different!  :)

 

Cheers

Ron 

G0IBI

 

From articles I've read both work but vertical is supposed to be best.  I guess it'll be a case of try it and see.

 

Al

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  • 2 weeks later...

Now got my hands on the Yagi antenna I'll be using.  


 


I've got the software loaded and had a quick check on local FM radio to make sure the dongle was working and the software was detecting it.


 


Collecting some cable and mounting bracket on Saturday then I should be all set to try for some meteor pings in a day or two.


 


 


Al


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Guest Tweedledum

I have sitting on my bookcase a redundant ARRL antenna manual. It is huge but if you are ever interested in making your own antenna this is for you. Especially at higher frequencies where the elements of the Yagi are small and critical in length. Free to a good home.


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  • 2 weeks later...

I have sitting on my bookcase a redundant ARRL antenna manual. It is huge but if you are ever interested in making your own antenna this is for you. Especially at higher frequencies where the elements of the Yagi are small and critical in length. Free to a good home.

Hi Boletus - sri about the delay.  A generous offer but I fear your book would be even more redundant in my hands.

 

Anybody more involved in the radio ham side of life may find it useful though.

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Well yesterday evening I finally got all the bit for my Radio Meteor Detector set up and running.


I left if running overnight and got nothing but I think I need to confirm the freq my dongle is actually set on.


Either the freq is wrong (probably due to my settings) or it's being reported wrong by the script ..... or just as likely I'm not understanding what the script is telling me.


 


The GRAVES radar operates on 143.050Mhz.  The S@N article says to tune to a freq of 143.048Mhz to give a 2khz audible tone during detection (this bit I understand), what's


not so clear is when I generate a screen shot the info on the Spectrum Lab screen shot says 143.028MHz.


I even restarted everything, retuned the dongle to 143.050 but the screen grab still shows 143.028Mhz.


 


Not had a chance to look deeper into it yet and hoping it's just something straightforward.  


 


Have my fingers crossed for 'first ping' over the next couple of nights.


 


 


Al

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Keep your chin up Al you will crack it - I just spent 24hrs looking why my program wouldn't subtracting two numbers then today it dawned on me I was doing arithmetic not comparing in IF statement before subtract statement- it was just simple the wrong number of equal signs in IF statement - a very very basic c error  :facepalm:  :facepalm:


 


you will win in the end  ;)


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OK so I tuned the FCD+ Pro to a knows local FM station & tried the S@N script and the screenshot still showed Freq=143.028Mhz.

 

FCDscript1.JPG

 

This seems to be in every screenshot when that particular script is running, regardless of the freq set.

I checked the content of the actual script file (as downloaded from the S@N website) and for some reason it is in the script under the [CAPTURE] section it says:-

     InfoDef0=$"Date="+str("YYYY-MM-DD",now)
     InfoDef1=$"Freq= 143028 kHz"
     InfoDef2=$"Config = MetScat_starter_v1"

No idea why that's in there but at least I have some confidence that my dongle is on the correct freq.

I guess I could just change this figure or look at how the scripting works to insert the frequency being used.

 

Now I can concentrate on trying to capture a few pings


Al

Edited by Al.Grant
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Got Em!   


 


I caught my first 2 meteor pings last night ...... happy!  Even though they were only small hits I now know it's working.


 


Spectrum Lab captured a 3s and 4s trace, they only look small on the screen because it was set using the S@N Metscat_starter script which gives


a 15 min trace.  


 


Now it seems to be working I'll switch to the more expanded/details view.


 


Al


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Guest HykehamObservatory

Hi,


I am new to this forum but I have been interested in astronomy since the 1960's. I have a radio set up working with the Funcube Dongle and Spectrum Lab. You will find that it tends to be quiet in the early evening as we are on the wrong side of the earth. We point more towards incoming meteors in the morning. If you want to see what you should get. Go to www.lincolnastronomy.org and click on the forum and down to the Perseid meteor watch .  I was getting trails lasting over a minute but today it is a couple of seconds if you are lucky.


 


I am still getting things set up for automatic upload to the web and any help with this would be appreciated.


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Hi,

I am new to this forum but I have been interested in astronomy since the 1960's. I have a radio set up working with the Funcube Dongle and Spectrum Lab. You will find that it tends to be quiet in the early evening as we are on the wrong side of the earth. We point more towards incoming meteors in the morning. If you want to see what you should get. Go to www.lincolnastronomy.org and click on the forum and down to the Perseid meteor watch .  I was getting trails lasting over a minute but today it is a couple of seconds if you are lucky.

 

I am still getting things set up for automatic upload to the web and any help with this would be appreciated.

 

Hi,

I got a much better one last night

 

event140902024018.jpg

 

 

 

Are you using your own script / Conditional Actions file or one downloaded from the web.  I've seen a couple that I want to try, but at the moment I'm still using the S@N scripts.  

 

What I want to try to do is get SpectrumLab working with Colorgramme Lab to automatically upload data (which I'm guessing is the same thing you are looking at).

I've got Colorgramme loaded but having problems getting spectrum lab to save the data in a manner that colorgramme can load it.

 

If you've got or find any other scripts that allow this then I'd very much appreciate being able to give it a try.

 

 

Al

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Guest HykehamObservatory

Hi Al,


 


I am using a modified script I found on the web but I am still changing it. I am happy to Email the latest text file to you.


 


There is in the Spectrum Lab software a method of automatically uploading to the web but it doesn't secure the password so I am still thinking about it.


 


I would like to let others hear what a long meteor sounds like but I am not sure how big a .wav file this system will allow. They can be up to 2MB. The Lincoln AS forum stops at 256kB attachments.


 


Phil


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Hi Al,

 

I am using a modified script I found on the web but I am still changing it. I am happy to Email the latest text file to you.

 

There is in the Spectrum Lab software a method of automatically uploading to the web but it doesn't secure the password so I am still thinking about it.

 

I would like to let others hear what a long meteor sounds like but I am not sure how big a .wav file this system will allow. They can be up to 2MB. The Lincoln AS forum stops at 256kB attachments.

 

Phil

 

Hi Phil,

 

I've only just got my system working and not really had time to look deeper into Spectrum Lab other than a couple of things in the S@N script.

I suspect that script is a good starting place but perhaps not the best one to use depending on exactly what it is people want to do.  S@N obviously needed to supply a script that served as a good generic starting place for a lot of people/systems and from that perspective ...  it works well.

 

However I'm not sure it actually saves an audio file or maybe it's just something I've not switched on in the software.

 

Getting everything working was one thing .... getting it all working as I'd like may be a different story!

 

Cheers

    Al

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Hi Al,

 

I am using a modified script I found on the web but I am still changing it. I am happy to Email the latest text file to you.

 

There is in the Spectrum Lab software a method of automatically uploading to the web but it doesn't secure the password so I am still thinking about it.

 

I would like to let others hear what a long meteor sounds like but I am not sure how big a .wav file this system will allow. They can be up to 2MB. The Lincoln AS forum stops at 256kB attachments.

 

Phil

I think I am right in saying (Mods will correct) but there is no limit as the data is not stored on the EMS server. Only the links are stored in the text therefore there is not limit other than the slowness of us poor rural broadband users subsidising "townies"  :evil:

 

I for one would love to hear the  meteor sound. :)

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I would like to let others hear what a long meteor sounds like but I am not sure how big a .wav file this system will allow. They can be up to 2MB. The Lincoln AS forum stops at 256kB attachments.

Phil

Phil, we opted to go down a different approach and let our members host their own photos / videos off site (Photo bucket, Flicker, Astro Bin ETC), this kept the storage costs down while allowing members to post massive sized pictures here on EMS, as we are not hosting them , just linking to them, could you not do the same, upload the .wav file to You tube and then link to that here?

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Phil,


 


Thanks for the email and script. I was using an earlier version of the same script but was missing some vital config .... like the save directory  :facepalm2:


 


All seems to be working now and Colorgramme is finding the .dat file.  


Next I need to get Colorgramme generating the hourly histogram and uploading/displaying the info here http://www.rmob.org/livedata/main.php


 


Al


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