Radio Meteor Zoo

If you’ve enjoyed, or simply read, my articles on the BRAMS network (on meteor detection, plotting power profiles, and the radio meteor signal path), you might be interested in the Radio Meteor Zoo.

The Radio Meteor Zoo is a so-called citizen science project. In these kinds of projects, members of the public can help scientists with their research. The Radio Meteor Zoo is hosted on Zooniverse, a popular platform for citizen science projects that grew out of the wildly successful Galaxy Zoo project.

Quoting from the Zooniverse website:

The Zooniverse lets everyone take part in real, cutting-edge research in many fields across the sciences, humanities, and more. There’s no previous experience required; just pick a project and get started right away.

The BRAMS network is clearly very well suited as a Zooniverse project. It produces a large amount of data, with 8000 images per day that can each contain several meteor reflections. These reflections turn out to be hard to classify automatically. For a subset of the reflections, the underdense ones, I have made my own contribution. However, the detection algorithm is not perfect yet, and it cannot detect overdense meteors, which are very common during meteor showers such as the Perseids.

As is still often the case in image detection problems, the human eye turns out to be the best detector at this time. The scientists behind BRAMS are confident that they can visually identify the true meteor reflections well enough for answering research questions. However, the amount of data is simply too large to make a manual approach feasible without the help of many volunteers. Enter Radio Meteor Zoo. Extensive experimentation has shown that a volunteer without any prior knowledge can correctly identify meteor reflections in the BRAMS data, when given clear instructions on how these look.

Clear instructions are, of course, provided within the Radio Meteor Zoo project. So, if meteors are your thing, consider contributing some of your time to help furthering meteor science!

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Submitted on 9 August 2016