A summary of the activity of the CAMS BeNeLux network during the year 2019 is presented. The year 2019 offered unusual good weather for astronomical observations with many clear nights during the period of April until September. 42749 orbits could be computed during 333 different nights which corresponds to 91% of all 365 nights in 2019. The months October and November 2019 were much worse than in 2018, reason why 2019 remained far below the record number of 49627 orbits recorded in 2018.
The CAMS project started in 2010 with its first two camera stations in California, U.S.A. Already in its early stage single-CAMS was developed to allow amateur astronomers to participate in the project. When the CAMS principal investigator, Dr. Peter Jenniskens, came to Europe with part of the CAMS equipment to monitor the predicted 2011 Draconids outburst, he invited some amateurs of the Dutch Meteor Society to operate a set of CAMS equipment during a so-called crash campaign in function of weather forecasts. Hunting for clear skies, the observers then are dropped ‘somewhere’ last minute to install and to operate the equipment while observing visually. Such last-minute dropping campaigns are adventurous but very demanding, requiring a lot of improvisation and flexibility. After the Draconid campaign, the CAMS equipment remained a while in the Netherlands allowing some amateurs to get familiar with the procedures while being lucky with the weather during the 2011 Orionids and Taurids.
The results of the 2011 Draconid project and the tests during Orionids and Taurids were presented during a meeting of Belgian and Dutch amateurs on 29 October 2011 in Heesch, the Netherlands with Dr. Peter Jenniskens as guest speaker. The CAMS project was introduced, the required equipment exposed. Several amateurs returned home inspired to acquire the CAMS equipment. It took a few months before the first CAMS BeNeLux stations got operational at Oostkapelle and Ooltgenplaat. The first night 13–14 March 2012 resulted in the very first orbits for the CAMS BeNeLux network.
More amateurs joined in and step-by-step the CAMS network expanded in number of cameras and camera stations until in 2017 the entire atmosphere above the BeNeLux got well covered. The CAMS BeNeLux got developed into one of the most successful amateur astronomy projects of the BeNeLux ever. The network depends 100% on volunteers, amateur astronomers who dedicate some of their free time to operate cameras, taking care of the daily task to confirm real meteors, deleting false detections and to report the meteor data to the CAMS network coordinator. The auto-financed basis of CAMS BeNeLux goes with a much stronger commitment compared to similar projects financed by subsides.
The CAMS BeNeLux network results are submitted to the CAMS project scientist Dr. P. Jenniskens at the Seti Institute. Results are published in refereed papers, presented at scientific conferences and results are online available (http://www.cams.seti.org). The CAMS software developer, Pete Gural, keeps in touch and provides feedback to the networks involved to adapt the software for new developments. The CAMS software is made available to all participating networks and technical support is provided by Steve Rau to implement the CAMS software and to configure Auto-Cams.
2 CAMS BeNeLux 2019 statistics
The year started with a rather poor month of January, the weather was unfavorable and the network had to do with less operational cameras than one year before.
Table 1 – Total numbers of nights (D) with orbits, number of orbits, number of camera stations (S), maximum of cameras available (Mx), minimum of cameras available (Mi), average number of cameras (Mm), total number of meteors and percentage of multiple station meteors.
Since CAMS station Ooltgenplaat quit in June 2018 after being damaged by fire, the CAMS network was suddenly left with poor coverage for several cameras elsewhere. This loss did not get compensated during 2019. To make things worse, the most northern CAMS station Terschelling got a computer failure at the begin of 2019 and remained out of service the rest of the year. Another major drawback was the non-availability of the cornerstone CAMS station in Gronau after mid-August until end 2019.
With several cameras being unavailable, the network dropped at about 80% of the capacity it had end 2017. This is visible in Figure 1, as a drop in the maximum (green line) and the average number (red line) of cameras available each month since 2018. The many technical problems prevented any recovery and the capacity in terms of number of cameras remained at the same level in 2019.
With the network functioning some years now, several stations suffered technical problems. For instance, the EzCap 116 framegrabbers proved to be rather poor quality and required many replacements. In some cases, the camera operators were not aware of any problems until some cameras turned out to have no orbits during some clear nights. One particular phenomenon in 2019 were the so-called “Zebrids”, meteor trails with irregular interruptions caused by dropped frames during the capture of the appearance of the meteor. Therefore, the measurement of the time duration of the meteor and its velocity are corrupted. The CAMS trajectory and orbit solving app Coincidence rejects such meteors because of the erroneous velocity measurement. This reduced the chance for double station meteors and accumulated in a loss of many hundreds of double station events that could not be used to obtain a reliable orbit.
Some new cameras were added to the CAMS BeNeLux network (see also Figure 7):
- CAMS 816 at the new CAMS station in Humain, Belgium, became operational 19 February;
- CAMS 328 and 329 in Hengelo, formerly Watecs, were replaced by RMS cameras;
- CAMS 003830 (BE0002) is a new RMS camera installed in Mechelen and pointed low to cover most of the eastern part of the Netherlands with a FOV of 22.5 × 41.4°;
- CAMS 003814 (BE0001) another new RMS camera was moved from Mechelen where its optics proved too bright for the light polluted region, to the very dark site Grapfontaine. Pointed at azimuth 350.0° and elevation 37.0° with its large FoV of 47.0 × 88.3°, this single camera covers about two thirds of the CAMS BeNeLux region and overlaps with as many as 62 cameras at other stations;
- CAMS 3901 got operational at the most southern station of the network in Nancy, France;
- CAMS 379 was added at the CAMS station in Wilderen, Belgium, dedicated to give coverage over Luxembourg.
- CAMS 3815 (BE0003) is another RMS camera installed at the new CAMS station in Genk, Belgium, pointed south to give coverage on the Ardennes, Luxembourg and North-East of France;
- CAMS 3831 (BE0004) a fourth RMS installed in Mechelen, pointed low to cover Luxembourg, the Ardennes and North-East of France with a FOV of 22.5 × 41.4°;
After the disappointing month of January, February brought a major improvement, just like in 2018, although the harvest in orbits was less impressive than previous year. Apart from slightly less favorable weather, the smaller number of operational stations and cameras kept the scores lower (3485 orbits against 4147 in 2018).
Just like in 2018, weather deteriorated in March resulting in slightly less orbits in 2019. A major weather improvement happened in April, just in time for the coverage of the Lyrids and a new record number of orbits for the month of April. On April 22 CAMS BeNeLux detected an outburst of the shower 15 Bootids (FBO#923) (Johannink, 2019; Roggemans, 2019a). May brought less favorable weather and less orbits while June 2019 resulted in a record number of orbits collected during the short nights of the month of June. Another outburst was detected on June 24 by different CAMS networks: June epsilon Ophiuchids (JEO#459) (Roggemans, 2019b).
July 2019 became the best month of July ever, just in time when the nights got longer, and the meteor activity picked up. August 2019 became another record month, the best month ever in the history of CAMS BeNeLux with as many as 9921 orbits. August broke the previous record of October 2018 when the Draconids outburst boosted the number of orbits. The success of August 2019 is remarkable in the sense that Moonlight interfered a lot during the best Perseids nights. Autumn came with deteriorating weather during the last week of September. October became a poor month with no chance for a good Orionid coverage. Poor weather ruled November and December, missing the main Geminid activity. Still the results obtained under these unfavorable circumstances are excellent. Figure 2 shows the monthly scores in numbers of orbits.
3 2019 compared to previous years
Figure 3 shows the accumulated number of orbits. With 42749 orbits, 2019 was another excellent year for CAMS BeNeLux, bringing the total score at 188464 orbits. The total numbers of orbits are far higher than the most optimistic estimates anybody had expected in the past. The good result for 2019 is mainly due to the overall exceptional number of clear nights this year, combined with the use of Auto-CAMS and the still large number of operational cameras, although up to 20% of the equipment remained unavailable during much of 2019.
Comparing 2019 with previous years the highest average number of nights per month with orbits, 27.8, was better than ever before. 333 of the 365 nights of 2019 allowed to collect orbits, only 32 nights had zero orbits. The success is mainly the result of exceptional good weather. The expansion of the network covering a larger surface than few years ago offered better chances for local clear sky in some regions while the rest of the network remained 100% cloudy. Amateurs who operate their cameras only during predicted clear sky are missing all the unforeseen periods with clear sky. It is very recommended to run AutoCAMS 7/7 to cover these nights with unexpected clear sky. Some statistics are shown in Table 2 and in Figure 4.
The number of operational cameras got at full strength in August 2017 while AutoCAMS was introduced in November 2015. The final result in terms of orbits per year depends on being lucky with weather circumstances during the major showers.
Table 2 – Total numbers per year: average number of nights with orbits per month (Dm), orbits, average number of cameras per month (Cm), maximum number of operational cameras, number of operational stations and total number of nights with orbits.
10 years ago, at the start of the CAMS project, the purpose of the project was to collect at least a hundred orbits for each calendar date to detect unknown minor showers caused by weak dust trails. This initial target proved to be too modest as meanwhile the BeNeLux Cams network alone almost accomplished this purpose. CAMS proved much more successful than ever expected and meanwhile many hundreds of orbits are available for all nights of the year. Figure 5 shows the number of orbits collected per calendar date by CAMS BeNeLux alone, which is about 15% of the global CAMS collection of orbits.
Figure 6 displays the location of the CAMS stations and cameras which contributed orbits in 2019. Framegrabbers and computer problems were responsible for the non-availability of some cameras at several occasions. Therefore, some extra cameras and stations would be very welcome to guarantee good coverage when somewhere technical problems occur. The situation at each CAMS station was discussed during the 2019 CAMS meeting which took place on 10 March 2019. A report about this CAMS meeting can be read in the March 2019 CAMS report (Roggemans, 2019c).
Since end 2018 some experiments have been made with the new RMS cameras. In 2019 the first RMS cameras were effectively used to provide extra coverage to the network.
The results exceeded all expectations in spite of numerous technical problems. The number of orbits for each camera depends mainly upon the coverage provided by other camera stations. However, the scores obtained by the RMS cameras listed in Table 3 are remarkable although these have been less nights in service during 2019 than most of the Watecs.
Table 3 – Selection of 20 cameras with the highest scores in orbits.
|Camera||Total orbits||nights active||nights with orbits|
|003814 (RMS Grapfontaine B)||5573||222||154|
|003830 (RMS Mechelen B)||3448||275||183|
|000384 (Watec Mechelen B)||3023||365||263|
|000399 (Watec Mechelen B)||2724||365||256|
|000388 (Watec Mechelen B)||2503||365||249|
|000816 (Watec Humain B)||2391||316||210|
|003035 (Watec Oostkapelle Nl)||2388||218||200|
|000391 (Watec Mechelen B)||2388||353||229|
|000383 (Watec Mechelen B)||2322||365||250|
|000395 (Watec Dourbes B)||2320||354||216|
|000380 (Watec Wilderen B)||2293||365||227|
|003900 (Watec Nancy F)||2197||306||173|
|000353 (Watec Ermelo Nl)||2186||175||155|
|000814 (Watec Grapfontaine B)||2183||359||193|
|000812 (Watec Texel Nl)||2061||363||239|
|000390 (Watec Mechelen B)||2021||359||217|
|003815 (RMS Genk B)||2021||157||94|
|000809 (Watec Mechelen B)||1997||365||241|
|000393 (Watec Ukkel B)||1958||361||228|
|000394 (Watec Dourbes B)||1942||251||153|
4 CAMS BeNeLux in the world
CAMS is a global project in which different networks around the world participate all using the same CAMS software. The 16th century emperor Charles V claimed that the Sun never set in his empire, the opposite is true for CAMS. The Sun never rises as there is always some network with nighttime allowing to collect video meteor orbits 24/24 if weather permits.
Altogether the CAMS networks collected about 364000 orbits in 2019, almost twice as much as the year before (see Figure 8). The different CAMS networks had the following numbers of orbits (raw data):
- CAMS Arkansas 13630 (2595 in 2018)
- CAMS Australia 37837 (new since June 2019)
- CAMS BeNeLux 42749 (49627 in 2018)
- CAMS California 69924 (68329 in 2018)
- CAMS Chile 51700 (new since July 2019)
- EXOSS Brazil 342 (400 in 2018)
- CAMS Florida 24944 (5654 in 2018)
- LOCAMS Arizona 49748 (45230 in 2018)
- CAMS Namibia 18875 (new since September 2019)
- CAMS New Zealand 23806 (3201 in 2018)
- CAMS Northern California 4582 (818 in 2018)
- CAMS South Africa 9640 (new since June 2019)
- UAZ-CN 16085 (10583 in 2018)
- Total 2019~364000 orbits (186500 in 2018)
CAMS BeNeLux contributed almost 12% of the total score for 2019. Since the start of the CAMS project more than 1100000 video meteor orbits have been collected of which 188454 orbits by CAMS BeNeLux. This is currently the largest collection of optical orbits and the project is expected to be continued for years with more networks involved than previous years.
Many thanks to all participants in the CAMS BeNeLux network for their dedicated efforts. Thanks to Martin Breukers and Carl Johannink for providing all the data on which this report is based. The CAMS BeNeLux team is operated by the following volunteers:
Hans Betlem (Leiden, CAMS 371, 372 and 373), Jean-Marie Biets (Wilderen, CAMS 379, 380, 381 and 382), Martin Breukers (Hengelo, CAMS 320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327, RMS 328 and 329), Bart Dessoy (Zoersel, CAMS 397, 398, 804, 805, 806 and 888), Jean-Paul Dumoulin / Christian Wanlin (Grapfontaine, CAMS 814 and 815, RMS 003814), Luc Gobin (Mechelen, CAMS 390, 391, 807 and 808), Tioga Gulon (Nancy, France, CAMS 3900 and 3901), Robert Haas (Alphen aan de Rijn, CAMS 3160, 3161, 3162, 3163, 3164, 3165, 3166 and 3167), Robert Haas / Edwin van Dijk (Burlage, CAMS 801, 802, 821 and 822) , Robert Haas (Texel, CAMS 810, 811, 812 and 813), Klaas Jobse (Oostkapelle, CAMS 3030, 3031, 3032, 3033, 3034, 3035, 3036 and 3037), Carl Johannink (Gronau, CAMS 311, 312, 313, 314, 315, 316, 317 and 318), Hervé Lamy (Ukkel, CAMS 393), Hervé Lamy (Dourbes, CAMS 394 and 395), Hervé Lamy (Humain, CAMS 816), Koen Miskotte (Ermelo, CAMS 351, 352, 353 and 354) , Jos Nijland (Terschelling, CAMS 841, 842, 843 and 844), Tim Polfliet (Gent, CAMS 396), Steve Rau (Zillebeke, CAMS 3850 and 3852), Adriana en Paul Roggemans (Mechelen, CAMS 383, 384, 388, 389, 399 and 809, RMS 003830 and 003831), Adriana en Paul Roggemans (Genk, RMS 3815), Hans Schremmer (Niederkruechten, CAMS 803), Erwin van Ballegoij (Heesch, CAMS 347 and 348) ) and Marco Van der Weide (Hengelo, CAMS 3110).
Johannink C. (2019). “Activity of the 15 Bootids (FBO#923) observed by CAMS BeNeLux”. eMetN, 4, 213–215.
Roggemans P. (2019a). “Outburst 15 Bootids (FBO#923)”. eMetN, 4, 216–219.
Roggemans P. (2019b). “June epsilon Ophiuchids (JEO#459), 2019 outburst and an impactor?”. eMetN, 4, 201–206.
Roggemans P. (2019c). “March 2019 report CAMS BeNeLux”. eMetN, 4, 246–248.