A Brief History of the B.C. Fireball Network

At this time I was involved in meteor spectroscopy and had posted many messages on this on various web sites, mostly on meteorobs trying to get people interested in meteor spectroscopy.  To my surprise I received an e-mail from Richard Spalding at Sandia, asking if I would be interested in operating an All-sky Video Detection Camera to record fireballs.  I immediately told Jeremy Tatum about this offer and he contacted Richard to get more details on this.  Shortly after that, four all-sky cameras were delivered to us  One was set up at University of Victoria, operated by David Balam, a research associate at UVic, another was sent to William Weller a professor at Malaspina University College (now Vancouver Island University) in Nanaimo, the other to me in Courtenay, and the fourth unit was set up in Woodinville Wa operated by Ajai Sehgal.  Mike Hale joined our group as he had built his own all-sky camera which was located on Gabriola Island.

Here is a clip from the Times Colonist paper Wednesday 3 June 1998.  This is the first official announcement of the B.C. Network which of course included Ajai’s site in Woodinville Wa.

Small Newspaper article

Here is our first success recording a mutual fireball event:

First capture1



David Balam did the analysis using IRAF software.

The original camera used a silvered convex mirror which had its own problems.  Accurate elevation of the start and end point of a fireball was difficult to arrive at as angles are compressed as you get closer to the horizon.  Also, few background stars that would be useful as calibration reference points were difficult to obtain. A program was written by a fellow at the University of Alberta to help with this but it was not used by us.  Sandia later distributed fisheye all-sky cameras which eliminated the geometry problems of the convex but they also lack detection of background stars for calibration reference points.  This is being worked on by stacking images to bring out reference stars.  Ken Tapping and Jeff Brower are working on calibrating their cameras and once this is successful this will be done for other camera sites.  The B.C. All-sky Network has expanded to various sites on the mainland greatly increasing coverage and usefulness of the network.  This is a work in progress.  When Jeremy Tatum retired he asked me to be the unofficial co-ordinator of the B.C. Network and I have done this as best I can.  Others have since taken over this responsibility  as they have the mathematical and computing skills that I don’t possess.

Ed Majden
Courtenay B.C. Station.