How to Record Meteors

University of Alberta observatory domes


"Thank you so much for visiting our class on Friday! The kids loved it...they thought it was pretty cool to meet a "real" Astronomer! Thanks again, Janine"

Updated February 17, 2012

Data Recording

In order to get meaningful information from your meteor observations you need a way to record data. Audio recording may preserve the observation for playback but as yet this is not data. It must be converted to a usable format.

Various pieces of information about the meteor can be derived from the data.

  1. The number of reflected signals per unit of time (usually per hour) tells you how much meteor activity occurred.
  2. The length of signals indicates how energetic the meteor was (faster and bigger means more energy and a longer signal).
  3. The strength of the signal also shows how energetic the meteor was.
  4. The audio characteristic of the signal (sound fading and strengthening, etc.) indicates the affect of wind on the meteor trail, for example.

Radio SkyPipe

We install a copy of Radio Sky Pipe on your school computer free of charge using an institutional license that belongs to your school. Students can also download a free copy for their own computers to look at files from Radio Sky, a supplier of amateur radio astronomy supplies. 

We will set up your antenna, radio, and computer connections. To operate the Radio Sky Pipe (RSP) you need to do the following:

  1. Make sure the modified car radio we supply you with has the audio cord plugged into the Line In jack on the soundcard of your computer.
  2. RSP allows you to sample the signal from your receiver many times a second. Below are two sample meteor observation sessions using Radio Sky Pipe software.

Sample of an observation taken the morning of April 29, 2001 with no meteor shower underway. Sporadic meteors only. Approximately 16 meteors detected. 94 MHz.

Sample observation of Lyrid meteor shower made the morning of April 22, 2001, also at 94 MHz. Approximately 55 meteors detected.


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Edmonton Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Department of Physics (University of Alberta)

and the

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