April 2022 - PROJECT GOING ON HOLD
Unfortunately due to forthcoming huge increases in operating costs, both personally and for the Meteorscan project, after twelve years of operation I am planning to shut down the meteor detector for a period of time while I review the system operation and costs.
What makes meteorscan different?
The full Meteorscan system uses three 'identical remote receiving stations' located several miles apart. These are located in specially selected 'RF Quiet' remote locations, each incurring its own electricity and remote broadband (4G) costs.
The data from any two stations are fed into the Meteorscan discriminator which can separate local interference and select the appropriate feed image to display. In simplified terms, any signal that mainly affects one receiver is likely to be local interference or aircraft scatter and so its image and data sample are automatically ignored for display or processing purposes. If a signal affects two or more receivers it is passed to the second stage of the discriminator.
This second stage looks for the signature trace of meteors and assigns 'fuzzy logic' based confidence and magnitude values based on certain aspects of the signal. A decision is then made whether to count this signal as a meteor.
Having a third station provides 'fail-over' redundency, so if one of the other stations goes down we can still run the system. Already we've had to operate without a third station since the closure of our Brixham feed.
If you compare this system to the alternatives, you see that we have focused on consistency of calibration (using identical stations throughout), wide sky coverage (with near omni-directional antennas), high signal to noise performance & sensitivity (Using remote RX sites) - in order to gather and maintain useful and representative data sets (meaningful hourly rate numbers) - rather than using huge beam antennas to count every spec of dust in the atmosphere as some other amateur systems attempt to do.
Why is there now a problem?
Recent events have made our projected financial situation much worse. The sudden and large increases in costs here in the UK and falling revenues from my self employment have conspired to make my personal funding of this project impossible to sustain for now.
Why not just go back to a simpler system?
Further downgrades to the system are just not acceptable to me as the project needs to remain both personally rewarding and deliver on its promise to provide useful, consistent and reliable 'representative' data.
More basic 'Spectrum-Lab' based systems as commonly run by amateurs from private dwellings, overcome the higher associated local RF noise by using beam antennas with very narrow sky coverage, plus they have no automated method of discriminating actual meteors from local interference, aircraft etc.
Such systems have a place for sure and can give a good account of themselves but not so much scientific value and there are many such systems which are easy enough to find elsewhere on the internet. I have no plans to add yet another similar system as it is just not necessary.
What about donations?
For the Meteorscan system, the remote 4G internet, electricity supplies, a VPS server to run our discriminator binaries, sensitive equipment maintenance and high bandwidth web hosting are all add to the expense. Sadly our donations have declined to near zero, making the process of accepting donations not really worthwhile, so my costs had already increased noticably even before the current inflation.
So What is Planned for The Future?
So the decision is to close the system for a while to save money and completely redesign it from the ground up. Maybe to work from just one remote site which includes the receiving station and server, plus solar/wind power and maybe 'borrowed' wifi instead of 4G (if I can find a willing donor in range). It will require the development of new algorithms to do a similar discrimination task as our multi receiver based system, as I will not want to count reflections that are not meteors.
What I run in its place is not yet decided, but I have other projects relating to solar activity which will be very low cost to deploy. Right now though, my attentions are focussed on dealing with the looming financial crisis facing our country and increasing my commercial work accordingly - this meaning that Meteorscan will have to take a back seat for the time being.
Sorry for any inconvenience if you were using the system for meteor-scatter prediction, scientific or astronomical research purposes, but sadly most of our visitors use meteorscan as a novelty, to watch during meteor showers, and not something that they feel they want to support with financial contributions - which is fine of course, as I always said it would remain free for 'anyone' to use. The main contributors have been radio hams who use our system for meteor-scatter prediction.
Thank you for your support over the last twelve years. Further updates to follow in due course.