Amateur Participation in Meteor Science
Amateurs have been making significant contributions to the world of professional meteor astronomy through the collection and analysis of visual and video observations. The first part of the talk will focus on an introduction to meteors, their phenomenology, characteristics, and observing opportunities. The second part will focus on low cost instrumentation used by amateurs in the meteor field such as human eyes, video cameras, radio receivers, and spectrometers.
Pete Gural is a senior scientist with Leidos Corporation in Chantilly, Virginia managing multiple programs involved with advanced image and signal processing. Those programs that were specifically astronomy related have involved developing algorithms for asteroid detection for the Canadian space based asteroid search satellite NEOSSAT, and a rapid-response mirror tracking system for catching high resolution meteor video.
Pete’s interest in astronomy started at a young age in light polluted New York City, especially after the East Coast blackout of 1965. He observed his first major meteor shower while in high school (the Perseids) after a cold front swept through and cleared out the normal summer haze of August on Long Island. While in graduate school in Astronomy, he would drive up to Kitt Peak Observatory with Mark Adams (a fellow meteor enthusiast) and lay out under the stars counting and photographing meteors while the professional astronomers worked their magic in the big domes. Full time employment hindered regular late night meteor observing, until an opportunity to purchase an intensified video meteor camera arose in the mid-1990’s. Having to watch endless hours of star field video tapes the following morning, had launched Pete into the area of computer assisted meteor detection from video tapes, and later doing the same from live video feeds.
His developed expertise in automated meteor and transient detection in video, grew into rubbing elbows with both amateur and professional meteor researchers from around the world. He has been involved in both the Leonid meteor storm ground and airborne campaigns (traveling once as far as Mongolia), designed and built new instrumentation for meteor observations, and developed software for end-to-end processing of captured video meteors for the CAMS and spectral-CAMS projects. As an amateur meteor enthusiast, he is well known and respected by the professional meteor community, which had the IAU bestow the honor of naming asteroid #24301 as “Gural”.