Nov 8 2002

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 June 20, 2004

Sky Scan Installs Meteor Detectors at First Two Pilot Schools

Edmonton, AB - Sky Scan Science Awareness Project is pleased to announce the successful installation of its first two remote sensing stations at Spruce Avenue School and Bannerman School on Friday, November 8. Currently in the pilot stage, the project is designed to allow Grade 9 students to detect meteors by radio. Each station includes an antenna and digital FM radio receiver (supplied by Sky Scan) connected to a computer equipped with data recording software. 

Sky Scan's Education Development Coordinator Bruce McCurdy is captured in action gripping the handyman's secret weapon, as the second antenna installation at Bannerman School nears its completion. Having survived the snowy winds of November on the school roof, Bruce now faces a more daunting challenge one floor down. On Wednesday November 13 he will make his first in-class presentations to Jodie Kachkar's two Science 9 classes. Bannerman is a participant in the Nellie McClung Girls' Junior High Program which emphasizes "experiential learning". Thanks to this antenna and the remote sensing station to which it is connected, these girls will have an opportunity to experience dynamic events in the real Universe.

Students in Dean Jaster's Science 9 class at Spruce Avenue, and Jodie Kachkar's two classes at Bannerman, will be using the stations to observe on radio wavelengths, the upcoming Leonid meteor shower. By opening this radio window on the Universe, students in both schools will cover in a novel fashion many of the new curriculum requirements of the Space Exploration unit. 

Installed Friday by Sky Scan volunteers Guy Almberg, Kevin McCurdy and Education Development Coordinator Bruce McCurdy, the stations include FM radios which were adapted for the purpose by David Cleary. 

Early results from both stations appeared promising, but both will be fine-tuned during the upcoming week to ensure they're ready to go on Leonid night. 

Calibrated to the frequency of 92.1 Megahertz, the stations will pick up brief radio bursts from FM stations in Calgary and Winnipeg which broadcast at that wavelength, as the transmissions are reflected off the ionization trails of meteors. A limited amount of such activity occurs any day or night of the year due to sporadic meteors, but during a meteor shower this activity significantly increases. 

In the case of the Leonids, a meteor "storm" is predicted with visual rates of hundreds or even thousands of meteors per hour peaking around 3:30 a.m. MST on Tuesday, November 19, 2002. The light of the full Moon will hamper visual observations, and notoriously poor November weather could spoil the show, but meteors can still be detected by the radio method. Indeed, for the casual observer a car radio tuned to a beyond-the-horizon transmitter such as FM 92.1 should yield a significant number of meteor "hits". 

But students of Spruce Avenue and Bannerman can go one better, using a receiving station designed for the purpose. Although much of it will be collected overnight, shower data will then be analyzed by students during school hours. Project organizers anticipate that through the cooperative effort of participating schools, information from multiple stations can be compared, and results provided to the scientific community at large. 


A not-for-profit organization administered by the University of Alberta's Physics Department, Sky Scan is primarily funded by a grant from NSERC, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Sky Scan is also associated with community groups such as the Edmonton Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) and the Northern Alberta Radio Club (NARC), as well as individuals in the academic and science community.Bannerman School became the first of several schools in the Edmonton area to adopt a new educational resource using FM radios to detect meteors falling into Earth's atmosphere from space. Antennas and FM receivers were installed at Bannerman and Spruce Avenue schools today making them the first schools to pilot the project.

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Copyright 1999-2015 by Sky Scan, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. 

We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the 

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

and the

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

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