NASA Releases Shooting Star Counting Application
NASA has developed a meteor counting program for the Palm OS, just in time for the upcoming Leonid Meteor shower. NASA researchers developed the software so the space agency’s own scientists could make more accurate tallies of meteors during the 2001 version of the annual Leonid storm.
"We wanted something more sophisticated than putting marks on a piece of paper," said Rob Suggs at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) . Suggs and colleague Bill Cooke conceived the program. Suggs said tests last year went well. "The software worked famously."
Space.com reports, this year, 14 MSFC researchers will fan out around the globe counting shooting stars by tapping their handheld computers in addition to recording video data. The device knows the time. Users input location and an estimate of a thing called limiting magnitude, which involves how bright or dim the stars (and meteors) are that can be seen by the observer at the given time and location.
The software then automatically sorts the subsequent tallies into 15-minute bins and calculates a series of hourly rates for these 15-minute periods, as is the custom among serious meteor observers. The program goes further, however, and figures out what would have been observed if sky conditions had been perfect.
Thanks to Justin Case for the tip!
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