Europlanet Fireball Forums

Europlanet Fireball Forums   

Günter Kargl and Manuel Scherf (Space Research Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences) describe the outcomes of a series of workshops on fireball detection organised through the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) project. 

Read article in the fully formatted PDF of the Europlanet Magazine.

Since 2021, Europlanet has organised four workshops on the topic of monitoring fireballs. Fireballs are meteors, brighter than the planet Venus, that streak across the sky. Multiple camera networks, run by amateur astronomers and some professional institutions, have been set up to observe and monitor the phenomena around the world. The aim of the workshop series has been to bring together fireball observers and machine-learning experts to share knowledge and develop common tools. 

At the first workshop, held in June 2021, camera data was presented from three networks that were used to find the Winchcombe meteorite that landed in the UK on 28 February 2021. To compare the data, a significant investment of time was needed to make the different data formats of the networks involved compatible. Discussions in the workshop opened up the possibility of having a common (or at least an open exchange) format to speed up the process for combining data and analysing the path of the fireball. The capacity to do this quickly can increase the probability of finding meteorite fragments and to preserve them for science before professional meteorite hunters can have a chance to collect them for commercial purposes. 

Over the last two years, two more workshops have been held and a common data format has been identified and further developed. The system is based on a preliminary format, developed at the University of Aberystwyth during a previous Europlanet EC-funded project, that complies with standards for making data available in the virtual observatory for planetary data, VESPA. 

Updates at the final workshop, held on 12-13 May 2023, showed that five major networks have implemented this new format and a further network is considering whether they have the available personnel resources to implement it too. 

The workshop series was organised in collaboration with the ESA Space Situational Awareness (SSA) office. Three of the four meetings were held as virtual events, enabling participation from all over the world including from Europe, USA, India, Brazil, Columbia, Morocco and a very large involvement of Australia and New Zealand (Desert Fireball Network). 

As well as providing a forum for discussion, the workshops have included opportunities to disseminate relevant resources, including machine learning tools for fireball detections. Lunar impact flashes were also discussed and were the main topic of the final workshop. Hands-on training in an ESA software package for detecting lunar impacts was provided. 

Presentations from the four workshops will remain available online as an ongoing resource for the community 

Find out more

Issue 5 of Europlanet Magazine