|Leonid fireball by David Entwistle |
using Fuji Superia ISO 800 film
and a 30-second exposure.
Most people at some time or other have probably seen a "shooting star" dash across part of the sky. This of course is not really a star at all, but is a minute speck of cosmic material called a meteoroid, which "burns up" during its passage through the Earth's atmosphere producing the streak of light which we call a meteor. The SPA Meteor Section webpages describe what meteors are and how to observe them, and gives some information about the Section, its personnel, activities and history.
The Section's purpose is to help make good astronomers, in particular meteor observers, of its members and contributors. By following the instructions on these pages from the links below when making your meteor observations, you will be doing original work, which is the best way to learn. Never be afraid to ask questions if you are not certain what to do, or want more information on any meteor-related topics, and don't worry about your inexperience or making mistakes when you start out. Every experienced observer made - and still occasionally makes - mistakes; that is how they gained their experience. Regular observing at all times of year, NOT just near the maxima of major meteor showers, is how to become a better meteor watcher, and remember, practice makes perfect!
The Section's Director is Tony Markham, to whom all observations and questions about meteors and meteor astronomy should be sent, and there is one Assistant Director, Alastair McBeath, who until April 2012 was Director. Brief biographical profiles can be found here.
The SPA is an organization dedicated to the better public understanding of astronomy, and relies on subscriptions paid by its members to maintain its information sources, including this website. If you are not an SPA member already, but have found these webpages useful and would like to join to help us continue this work, please see here.
We try to keep these webpages as up-to-date as possible, but if you should find a link which does not take you to where it should, please let the SPA webmaster know immediately, at email@example.com.
Monthly notes on what we hope to see meteorically from Britain, with radiant charts for many showers and observing advice, are currently available for:
A list of meteor showers visible from the UK for the current year, through to January next year is available here.
Fireballs are especially bright meteors, technically any meteors of magnitude -3 or brighter. Regularly updated notes on fireball reports made recently from sites in the British Isles and nearby are here:
The Section's instruction booklet "Observing Meteors", which includes full details on visual observing, plus notes on telescopic and imaging meteor observing, is available in two formats, online with links to other pages on this site, and suitable for printing-out:
Similarly, the Section's visual observing report form is available in text-only or printable formats. Once completed, the printable version can be used to submit your observations by ordinary mail, while the text-only version can be e-mailed directly to the Section. Note this form is designed for recording meteor watch observations, not fireball sightings. Instead, a special form for reporting such notably bright meteors is available via the "Making and Reporting Fireball Observations" webpage:
Additional information on meteor observing is available as follows:
Details of recent meteor activity as observed by Section members and others are regularly reported, with other meteor-related news, in the SPA's Electronic News Bulletins and in the printed News Circulars, and sometimes also in the SPA's online Forums. Occasionally, separate special reports are issued on this website as well. The links below provide direct access to such information from the current year, and from past years as well, back to 1998.
As well as reports on specific events from the relatively recent past, more general meteoric and meteoritic topics feature from time to time in the SPA's publications and Forums, along with events from earlier periods. A selection of links to some of the more detailed discussions can be found from the following page.
There is a lot of information on the Internet on all manner of topics, including meteor astronomy, but it is often difficult to be sure how reliable or up-to-date that information may be. The page here provides a selection of some of the better English-language meteor-related sites which you may find additionally useful.
Director: Tony Markham
Address in Popular Astronomy