Friday, October 31, 2014

The Australian Desert Fireball Network and other instrumented resources

Hi all,

In recent posts (click here and here) I have written about instrumented monitoring of aerial anomalies. The thought behind this is the acquisition of hard data concerning such anomalies.

In astronomical and atmospheric research circles, there are networks of instruments which monitor the skies, e.g. for aurora or for fireballs. In the realm of fireball research, there are three well known networks:

1. The Prairie Fireball Network (USA.)
2. The Meteorite Observation and Recovery Project Network (MORP) (Canada.)
3. The European Fireball Network.

In each case, cameras monitor large volumes of the skies.

Australian fireball network:

There is a lesser known network in Australia, the Desert Fireball Network (DFN.) It is a network of automated digital cameras, monitored through satellites, designed to photograph fireballs, then to triangulate their trajectory, and finally to attempt recovery of meteorites on the ground.

It was initially established across part of the Nullarbor Plain, but in September 2014 was extended to five more locations, all in South Australia, namely, Gum Glen; Mount Ives; Kondolka; Nilpena, and Wilpoorinna. Since its establishment in 2007 the DFN has photographed numerous fireballs, leading to recovery of pieces of two of them. It also recently photographed the 4 August 2014 Perth, WA, fireball.

The DFN website (click here ) states that the DFN is "...a project designed to find out where meteorites come from in the solar system." The DFN is a collaboration between:

1. Imperial College, London.
2. Ondrejou observatory in the Czech Republic.
3. Curtin University in Western Australia.
4. The West Australian Museum.

The website also states that "The final network will image the night sky over roughly one third of Australia."


I recently emailed the DFN project to ask a couple of questions, namely:

1. What is the lowest magnitude brightness meteors that the system can detect?

2. Has the system ever detected anything in the sky which appeared anomalous and hence is new to science? I am thinking here of the discovery of such phenomenon as upper atmospheric lightning, e.g. sprites associated with thunderstorms. I know that sometimes instrumented systems pick up things that they were not designed for, much to our surprise and delight."

I am awaiting a response.

Are these networks useful for UAP research?

Way back in 1968, the Condon Committee explored the value of the Prairie Fireball Network, by comparing some of the reports they received from the area covered by the network. "Colorado project scientists attempted to evaluate the usefulness of the Prairie Network as an instrumented system for UFO searches." The 16 stations of four cameras each were used. "The Network's identification of 18% of all sightings with a fair degree of probability..." was the outcome. (1969. "Final Report of the Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects." Bantam Books. New York. pp769-773.)

In 2013, the team at Curtin University developed a smart phone app called "Fireballs in the sky." When a person sees a fireball they point their camera at the point in the sky where they first saw it, click the phone; then point to the location in the sky where they last saw the fireball and click. The app can then assist determine the path of the fireball, with sufficient observations. The phone's accelerometer, GPS, and compass provide the raw data for the calculations of trajectory. Perhaps, a future app could document UAP sightings in the same way?

Other Australian instrumented systems:

There are also a number of "All sky" cameras in Australia, including one located at Mount Stromlo. Here, the Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics of the Australian National University runs a fish eye camera. Their website (click here) shows both static images, both fish eye and corrected, and a movie of images from the past few hours.

There is also an "Aurora patrol" camera located at Cressy in Tasmania, run by the Bureau of Meteorology. This is a CCD camera, where viewers can see both a static image; a video of sky images for up to the last ten days, and an image archive, all viewable on the net. Click here.

Finally, the Perth Observatory website has a sky camera which provides a wide field image of the night sky updated every ten minutes, viewable on the net. Click here.

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