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Shooting Stars in Armagh


Participants at the international meteor workshop held at the Armagh Observatory from January 30 - February 1, 2007.

Armagh Observatory last week held an international workshop entitled “Coordinated Meteor Observations in 2007 and Beyond”. The aim of the meeting was to bring together instrumentalists, observers and modellers from across the planetary science community in order to coordinate their efforts to observe the effects of meteors, or “shooting stars”, on the environments of the terrestrial planets, including the Earth.

Meteors are the flashes of light produced by grains of dust from comets as they run into the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Their study provides information both on the dust and on its orbital distribution in the inner solar system. This was the first-ever scientific workshop with a meteor theme to be hosted by the Observatory in its more than 210-year history, and the meeting attracted astronomers from Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, and as far afield as Japan. The participants presented their recent findings on different aspects of the meteor phenomenon and pooled knowledge and resources towards future progress in the field.

Topics discussed included video observations of the Stardust sample return capsule as it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere in January 2006; recent results from the European Space Agency's Mars Express and Venus Express missions; plans to detect future meteor activity in the atmospheres of Mars and Venus; and coordination of planned observations of the August Perseids, September Aurigids and December Geminids here on Earth.

The Observatory was well placed to provide the initiative for such a meeting. Its solar system group has acquired considerable expertise in both observation and theoretical modelling of meteors in recent years. The Observatory's video meteor station has now recorded over 2000 individual meteors, while its record on the theoretical front has been equally successful, having predicted the recent Leonid meteor storms with unprecedented accuracy, and now forecasting similar events at Mars and Venus observable by spacecraft.

The workshop was a resounding success, putting the Observatory in a strong position to make key contributions to meteor science as the field expands to encompass the latest technological advances, and placing it in the forefront of modern planetary science.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT: John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; jmfat signarm.ac.uk

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Last Revised: 2007 February 13th
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