WT1190F – Play by Play BLOG

2015-11-13 : 10:21 PST. Splashdown was last night at 22:19  PST in SRI LANKA off coast of Matara. Was late evening on USA Westcoast Thursday. Please enjoy my Blog. This is a conversation between young post-grad scientist Subath Amaradasa of the “Near Earth Objects” Team at the University of Ruhuna, who is on ground with French scientists from European Space Agency and William Smith who is the Hoyle-Shield coordinator at Cattle Point DARK SKY Urban Star Park, Victoria, Canada.


PS There will be a post script to the Snoopy event. Snoopy is almost certainly the Apollo 10 lunar lander – aka Snoopy. Its orbit which reaches way past the moon, makes this almost certain. No wonder it burned out. Very high speed entering the upper atmosphere. Ten times the speed of the fastest bullet on earth. Being small and with no shielding, no wonder it quickly burned out. Thanks to Rick Nowell for inspiring Subath Amaradasa and his “Near Earth Object” team at the University of Ruhuna in Matara, Sri Lanka. 

College of the Rockies Cranbrook Campus

College of the Rockies–COTR

Located in the East Kootenays in the South-eastern corner of BC, along the Rocky Mountain Trench. We recently placed an AllSky camera on the roof of our Cranbrook main campus.

In the Science department we offer University Transfer 1st and 2nd year courses, as well as Grade 11 and 12. Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Geography, Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science.

Our Astronomy 100 course boasts a Celestron CPC1100 11 inch Schmidt-Cassegrain, a 10″ Meade LX200, a 13″ Dobsonian and a number of smaller 4.5″ Newtonians. We do constellation (and meteor) photography with Nikon D100 digital cameras.

Rick Nowell
Physics Lab Tech

College of the Rockies (COTR) in Cranbrook BC

COTR Observation Station: Some Calibration and Technical Info:

The College of the Rockies Astronomy department has a Sentinel IV AllSky Meteor camera running under WSentinel video capture software ver 1.1.11. The College is located at Cranbrook BC, in the SouthEastern corner of BC. Our Camera coordinates are N49° 31′ 03.1″, W115° 44′ 37.1″, at an elevation of 940.0m (within 10cm).

The Sample Photo shows what our black and white rooftop camera sees, the lights of Cranbrook to the West, along the bottom of the photo. There are some red beacons flashing on the surrounding mountains, the one at 12 o’clock position marks roughly North (about 3 degrees True). The double-beacon at the 1:30 position marks a TV/Cell Tower at 309 degrees. The fisheye lens can view all around the horizon. The twin pine trees at the 7 o’clock position are in the College’s South parking lot. There’s a exhaust vent that shades the camera from some bright lights over to the East. Although the housing has been leveled to within 0.3 deg, the camera is tilted 5 degrees inside, and results in an elliptical rather than a circular horizon. The ratio of major to minor axes is 1.10.

Top View of StarLight B/W CCD Camera, Dome Off
Top View of StarLight B/W CCD Camera, Dome Off
We use a Starlight B/W CCD, a HiCam HB-710E [http://www.hicam.co.kr/main/710.htm] ultra-low light-level (0.0003 lumens) video camera (with 1/2” CCD sensor, 768×494 effective pixels), with the Rainbow L163VDC4P fisheye lens (1.6~3.4mm F1.4 – with mechanical auto-iris). Video is fed to an ATI All-in-Wonder video capture card on a Windows XP computer at 640×480 pixels, 29.97 frames/second. There’s about 18 hot pixels in the CCD sensor, so those are not all stars shown in the photo. Available is a photo of the inside of the lenscap revealing the hotpixels. This is normally used when you’re “stacking” the video frames and want to subtract out the hotpixels and background levels. Hot Pixels in the Sony CCD sensor PNG file.

Photo Reference Points: in the photo there is a flashing dot at the 12 o’clock position that marks 3 degrees true. In the photo, note the top of Woodteck Hill has a rotating beacon. This hilltop is located at N 49°34’18”; W115°44’22”; at elevation of 3,421′(1,043m). From the college, this would be 6.0 km away at a bearing of 2.9 degrees, altitude 1.0 degrees up from the horizon.

Radio Beacon North of Camera
Radio Beacon North of Camera

Starmap and Photo side-by-side
Cassiopeia and Beacon at 3 degrees North
Photo was taken at 18 May 2011 at 23:30:52 Mountain Daylight Time. Starmap generated by Meade Autostar Suite Astronomers Ed ver 3.19 2005

Photo and Starmap merged
Photo and Starmap merged
Auriga Starmap Superimposed on Beacon Photograph
Auriga Starmap Superimposed on Beacon Photograph
The pair of tower beacons at the 5 o’clock position, their centre point bearing 309°, are located 5.25 km distant at an elevation of 4,000 feet. The television tower is marked at 100 feet tall. Thus a total of about 4,100 feet (1,250m) at an angle of 3.0 degrees up from the horizon. Found on an older topographical map, 82G/12 dated 1980, 1:50,000 Scale, at N49°32’47”, W115°48’00”. The newer topographical maps don’t show the towers. The photo was taken 18May2011 at 23:35:50 MDT, and superimposed on a Autostar Suite 3.19 starmap adjusted to show the horizon at that time and location. At that time, the star Elnath in Auriga is located at (alt +3.0 °, az 312.8 °) The beacons are the same altitude as Elnath, at +3.0 degrees. No correction has been made for atmospheric refraction.

Time is synchronized to a College Network time server (since the end of August) and stays within 0.1 second of world time. Previous to that, it was slow by up to a minute.

Our AllSky camera was supplied by Richard Spalding of Sandia National Labs, in New Mexica, USA. Dick Spalding’s all-sky-all-the-time camera development is described at http://www.sandia.gov/LabNews/LN11-29-02/labnews11-29-02.pdf.

For more info, contact Rick Nowell at nowell@cotr.bc.ca

Mile 108 Elementary School

Located on Highway 97 in the British Columbia Cariboo-Chilcotin area, Mile 108 Elementary School is the site of the second AllSky camera located in School District #27 (Cariboo-Chilcotin). This camera will provide overlapping coverage with cameras in Prince George, Tatla Lake, Kelowna, Penticton, and Osoyoos, thereby increasing the likelihood of a multiple site common capture.

Dominion Astrophysical Observatory


Dave Balam will be editing this page soon.  In the mean time he sent some images representing the current all-sky time lapse camera at the DAO. A Sentinel unit will be added once Sid is available to install it.

Dave does have some images that show the capabilities of their current all-sky camera. The camera is on line an updated every minute at:



A mosaic_2009_10_24 – an 8 hour stretch (1 hour per individual stack) of the sky on 2009 Oct. 24/25. The objects marked with blue boxes are meteor trails.


Image: meteor_100217 – a meteor trail seen through the clouds before dawn on 2010 Feb 17.


Image: meteor_2009_10_25_01_24_13 – a bright meteor trail from 2009 Oct. 25

More to come in the weeks to follow.

EMO Courtenay

Ed Majden’s Observatory
Courtenay, BC, CANADA

Lat: 49 deg 40′ 36.4″ N – Long: 125 deg 00′ 36.2″ W

This observatory was built with the help of friends over several years. It is a work in progress. The dome is home built, made of plywood arcs cut from 3/4″ plywood and covered with tempered masonite and then painted with neoprene sundeck coat for weather protection. Several volunteers aided in this effort but Geoff Culliton deserves a mention along with my brother-in-law Lyle Wade and friend, Frank Davis. At present it has just undergone a major refit thanks to the efforts of a good friend and colleague John Purdy. His photo is included below doing roof repairs on the building proper. John has also made special accessories for the various instruments, as he is a talented hobby machinist and amateur astronomer. Most of my colleagues are ex or retired R.C.A.F./C.A.F. veterans!



Dome skeleton made from 3/4 inch plywood arc sections.



Geoff Culliton screwing down dome gore sections.


John Purdy working on roof

John Purdy working on roof repairs.

A Sandia Bolide Detection Camera was installed on the roof thanks to Richard Spalding of Sandia Labs in the United States. This is part of a West Coast Fireball Tracking Network overseen by Dr. Jeremy Tatum, retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Victoria. Dr. Tatum asked me to be the unofficial coordinator of this West Coast Network. He still assists with the technical work of triangulating fireballs captured by these All-sky Cameras. A picture of one of the Convex Sandia All-Sky Cameras is shown below. It operates 24 hours per day recording on 8-hour vhs tapes. A new auto recording computer capture fisheye camera is also being installed at this site. Sandia Labs in the U.S.A also provided this system. It will detect moving objects and dump the images to a PC computer hard drive. It uses a special interface box designed at Sandia Labs including a software package called Sentinel installed under the Linux operating system.


WA Fireball


Above – Washington State fireball detection near the SE horizon! North is to the right with East at the bottom. A final joint research paper is in progress. No meteorite as yet has been found. The fireball is the bright flare at the horizon. This is a single frame capture.

Convex Sentinel Camera


Convex type Sandia All-Sky Bolide Detection Camera.

One of the main areas of research conducted at this Observatory is Meteor Spectroscopy. This work is described elsewhere on this web page.

The main observatory at present houses a Celestron C14 S.C.T. Auxiliary equipment includes an Optec SSP-3 solid state Photometer and an SBig ST-6 CCD Camera. A Celestron 8 inch Schmidt Camera will soon be added on the telescope mount for wide field photography.

One of the big problems today is light pollution. A problem most astronomers have to contend with today.

ABMO Video Page

The observatory currently employs only one camera with a fish eye lens. The camera is mounted through the roof; it replaced a cap over a former aluminum chimney from a living room gas fireplace. The outside finger joints are sealed with silicon caulking preventing any water from entering the attic.  In the photo below a friend, Brent, shoots in true north with compass as I rotated the camera’s base from within the attic.

The lower end of the camera housing is inside the attic. I installed an AC outlet right next to it to power the camera and anti-dew heater. The black wire is the coax that carries the 1 Vp-p raw video signal down to the amplified video distribution box.

Attic side of it


The installment is complete and ready to observe.

Roof mount at W Kelowna

The raw video signal is sent from the rooftop down a coax to an amplified video distribution box (See below).

Video SPlitter

From the video splitter the video is then piped to a computer running the Python language program that came with the Sandi National Laboratories Sentinel camera. Since the original program was written in Python it can run on any operating system. The Sentinel software has been running flawlessly for three years on a very old, very slow, and very limited memory refurbished laptop running Linux. This software uses an external frame grabber as shown below.

Frame grabber Sentinel III

The video break out box also sends raw video to a second computer running the latest version of the Sentinel system. Unfortunately the next generation of the Sentinel system software is a Windows only – compiled software. It requires an internal PCI slot for an internal frame grabber. The board is a ImpactVCB model 188 board that comes with Hauppauge WinTV version 5.9G installation software.

model 188 Video card

The software is in early beta testing stage and bugs are being suppressed with each beta version.  Eventually the software will automatically ftp all overnight captures to New Mexico where the files will processed and analyzed for each observer. This feature is not yet implemented.

A third output of the video break out box is sent to a external Canopus ADVC-110 video to digital converter. The digital output from the ADVC is then sent by firewire to the computer where the UFOCapture program detects the meteors. To see an informative video about the ADVC-110 go here – It will take you to the  YouTube site and play the video.


More to come…

Student/Teacher Resources Page

To analyze meteor data with UFO Capture, refer to the instructions found under Video Analysis/Student UFO2 User Guide.

Download our Teacher Reference Documents (in PDF form) at our Downloads\References Section. These are collected from NASA, European Space Agency and other public sources.

There are three pages or more of files there: to switch pages click on the blue double arrows at the top right side of the page: “Page 1 of 3 >>” .

To download, put a checkmark in the boxes beside the files you want and hit “continue”. That should bring up a Download button, click that and it will download the PDF document into another browser window. (Note that some security filters may block this button, and show “[ad]” instead. To check, hover over that, you should see (for example) http://www.bcmeteors.net/downloads/finish/36/142.html, where 142 was the article number. Click on that [ad] icon to download it).