Tuesday, March 01, 2011


CNN Headline: "Cameras to track stuff smacking Earth"

Well, it was a good story, I suppose. Just not as remarkable as one would assume for it to make CNN headlines.

The story is at: http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/03/01/nasa-cameras-track-down-shooting-stars/?hpt=T2 and describes a new program NASA is developing to visually track incoming meteors.

This is a NASA photo of the meteoroid trackers in action:

(I wish I could say I was making that up.)

This is kind of cool, and in theory would mean that NASA would therefore detect all UFO sightings as they were happening, since part of the system is a real-time all-sky camera. Fantastic! And there's a link to a live camera watching for meteors (and UFOs) right now! http://fireballs.ndc.nasa.gov./liveview Nifty!


There are only three cameras running right now as part of the project, all of them in a small area of the southwestern USA. Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia, to be exact. There are plans for 12 more in the USA, mostly in the east. What isn't well-advertised is that much of the technology and software was developed in Canada at the University of Western Ontario, and is based on an all-sky camera network that was deployed in Canada in the 1970s and was decommissioned in the 1980s.

So, there's not really that much coverage of the night sky, after all. However, there are several other all-sky cameras run by (for the most part) amateur astronomers (cf.: http://homepage.usask.ca/~ges125/fireball/index.html).

The CNN news story is somewhat more optimistic:

"If someone calls me and asks 'What was that?' I'll be able to tell them," said William Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. "We'll have a record of every big meteoroid that enters the atmosphere over certain parts of the U.S. Nothing will burn up in those skies without me knowing about it."

In theory, all the amateur sites would send their data somehow to NASA, although certainly not in real-time. Many are only triggered by bright fireballs, so they would depend on some human intervention. Cooke would have to wait a while. Although, I guess that if a bright fireball was observed over a wide area, calls would be made to all the amateur astronomers to check their video recorders.

So NASA cancels the Space Shuttle Program and instead funds a system for tracking incoming meteors that was decommissioned by the National Research Council of Canada in 1985 because it was inefficient. (See: http://www.rcktmom.com/njlworks/MeteorTrackingPpr.html)

The good news? NASA will be able to detect UFOs.
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