Abstract: A summary of the activity of the CAMS BeNeLux network during the year 2020 is presented. The year 2020 brought unusual good weather for astronomical observations with many clear nights during the period from March until September. 45743 orbits could be computed during 325 different nights which corresponds to 89% of all 366 nights in 2020. The months January, February, October and December 2020 were rather poor months while January, March, April, May and September had the best scores ever for these months.
The first CAMS network started in October 2010 in California and celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2020. CAMS BeNeLux was the first CAMS network outside the USA and had its first orbits in the night of 14–15 March 2012. Meanwhile we are almost 9 years later and the CAMS BeNeLux network exceeded by far all expectations. Meanwhile other networks are on their decline or stopped working and some new players entered into the field.
In CAMS BeNeLux all the cameras, optics, computers and other required equipment are bought and financed by the participants themselves. Operating cameras for the CAMS network also requires some time on a regular basis to confirm meteors, remove false detections and report the data. The commitment in such project requires a strong motivation which is crucial to maintain these efforts.
Until 2017 CAMS BeNeLux expanded fast in number of cameras while in recent years the total number of cameras did not change much. Some CAMS stations quit; few others joined the network. The total volume of the atmosphere covered by CAMS BeNeLux cameras gradually increased. Past two years the classic Watec H2 Ultimate cameras got less popular and most of the recent cameras were all RMS which deliver data to both CAMS and Global Meteor Network. The use of RMS cameras for the CAMS BeNeLux network has the advantage that these are fully automated and functioning 7 nights on 7.
2 CAMS BeNeLux 2020 statistics
The year 2020 started very promising with a lucky Quadrantid night 3–4 January and a record number of 660 orbits in a single January night. Apart from that very successful night most of the month brought unfavorable winter weather. With a total of 2075 orbits, slightly better than the previous January record of 2058 orbits in 2017, the year started with a new record for this month. The poor weather and mostly stormy overcast sky of the last 10 nights of January continued throughout February. The situation of 2018 and 2019 with exceptional clear February nights did not happen in 2020 and the month ended with a modest 1215 orbits, far less than the 3485 orbits in 2019 or the 4147 orbits in 2018.
Very poor weather dominated most nights until half March 2020 when a major and long-lasting weather improvement resulted in a splendid second half of March. With 3026 orbits, March 2020 was another record month with more than twice the number of orbits that had been recorded during any previous month of March. The general stable favorable weather maintained during most of April with as highlights the outburst of the phi Serpentids (PSR#839) on April 15 (Roggemans et al., 2020) an excellent coverage of the 2020 Lyrids and an enhanced activity of the h Virginids (HVI#343) during the week following the Lyrid maximum (Roggemans et al., 2020). April 2020 ended with a splendid record number of 4128 orbits, beating the previous record of April 2019 when 2538 orbits were collected.
The last few nights of April and the first of May, the long period with good weather seemed to come to an end, but after a few less good nights the weather improved again and most nights in May obtained nice numbers of orbits. May 2020 became the third month in a row with a record number of orbits, after March and April. With a total of 3226 orbits May 2020 exceeded by far the previous record of 2426 orbits obtained in May 2018. Another particular record for May 2020, CAMS BeNeLux had on average 90.5 cameras running this month, with a maximum of 93 and a minimum of 70, an absolute record for the network. The long-lasting favorable weather period came to an end in early June and clouds dominated the sky until 18 June when a week of clear and partial clear nights allowed to register plenty of orbits. June 2020 ended with 1834 orbits, far less than the 2457 orbits of the record year 2019 for this month, but still good for a second place.
July 2020 started with very variable weather and apart from some partial clear nights, it took until the end of July before some nice clear nights allowed to harvest large numbers of orbits. 30–31 July had as many as 542 orbits on a single July night, an absolute record for this month. However, the weather in July 2020 wasn’t good enough to improve the record for the month as a whole. With 3823 orbits July 2020 was the third best month of July after July 2018 with 4098 orbits and the best ever month of July in 2019 with 4139 orbits.
August counted many favorable nights for video meteor work. With 720 orbits, 12–13 August was the absolute top night of 2020, but still far less than the best August nights of 2019 when 13–14 had 1175 orbits and 11-12 had 870 orbits. The absolute August record night remains 12–13 August 2017 when 1555 obits were registered, also 13–14 August 2017 with 750 and 12–13 August 2016 with 830 orbits was better than the best August 2020 night while only 54 cameras at 20 stations were available in 2016 against 90 cameras at 24 stations in August 2020.
Clear skies dominated the first three weeks of September and resulted in another record with 6132 orbits as the best September month ever, compared to the 5606 orbits of the previous best September month in 2018. The night 18–19 September 2020 with 514 orbits in a single night was the best September night ever for the network. One highlight in September were the chi Cygnids (CCY#757) which had been found in 2015 (Jenniskens, 2015; Roggemans et al., 2016; Koukal et al., 2016) and for which some early activity had been detected in late August 2020 (Jenniskens, 2020). Unfortunately, no details were communicated about this shower for the 2020 CAMS BeNeLux data.
Table 1 – Statistics for each month of 2020.Total numbers of nights (N) 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.
Last week of September 2020 the weather turned into the worst possible scenario and remained rather unstable without any complete clear night until begin of November. With a total of 3305 orbits, 2020 brought the poorest month of October since 2015. Most of the rich Orionid activity was missed once again, another year without luck for this shower. November didn’t bring completely clear nights, but at least the many partial clear nights allowed to collect many orbits. November 2020 ended with 5441 orbits, the second-best month of November after November 2018 when 6916 orbits were collected. December started with totally overcast nights, most of the Geminid activity was missed and the predicted enhanced Ursid activity remained hidden behind the clouds. With a total of 2693 orbits, December 2020 became the poorest month of December since 2015. Taking into account the larger surface of the atmosphere covered and the higher number of cameras, December 2020 was probably the worst December month in the CAMS BeNeLux history. Question is if this time of the year would ever bring a month with favorable weather for meteor work?
An overview of the monthly statistics for CAMS BeNeLux is presented in Table 1. February and December 2020 were the worst months of 2020. Except for January, June and October all other months were rather exceptionally good.
Good or bad weather determine the success of a camera network, but of course the hardware needs to be available. After a strong build-up of the network in 2017 we had a drop in the number of cameras in 2018 to about 80% of what was available before and the number was kept down throughout 2019 due to technical problems. 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 situation finally improved a lot in the first half of 2020 when less technical problems occurred and a few new cameras were added to the network. Unfortunately, since the summer of 2020 we see again a decline in the number of available cameras. No technical issues, but after operating cameras for years some participants seem to lose the motivation to maintain these efforts. Once cameras quit registering meteors, it is not always easy to resume participation in the network. For instance, the 4 cameras at Terschelling, Netherlands, remain unavailable for about two years now, apart from a short period end of March to begin of April when two of the four cameras could be used.
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. “Zebrids” make the measurement of the time duration of the meteor and its velocity corrupted. The CAMS trajectory and orbit solving app Coincidence rejects such meteors because of the erroneous velocity measurement. This problem seems solved since some operators switched from EzCap116 to a Sensoray card, or reinstalled their CAMS PC or just reinstalled the older version of FTP_CaptureDonglesAndDetect.exe.
Some new cameras were added to the CAMS BeNeLux network in 2020 at geometric strategic positions for the existing CAMS stations (see also Figure 2):
- CAMS 3800 became operational on 5–6 February 2020. This is an RMS camera with a 6 mm lens installed at Langenfeld, Germany and owned by Uwe Glässner. The advantage of the RMS camera is that data reduction can be done remotely. The confirmation for CAMS for this camera is done from Mechelen in Belgium. The camera is pointed over the north of the Netherlands, a direction for which Langenfeld provides a geometric strategic position to combine with multiple other cameras pointed in the northern part of CAMS BeNeLux;
- CAMS 3000, 3001 and 3002 are three new Watecs H2 Ultimate pointed at high elevation by Carl Johannink in Gronau, Germany, active since 12–13 March 2020;
- CAMS 378 got operational 21–22 March. This is another RMS (NL0009) with a 36mm lens installed at Kattendijke, Netherlands and owned by Kees Habraken. The camera is pointed north and covers a large part of the Netherlands, North Sea and part of Germany;
CAMS 3198 is another RMS (NL000A) camera with a 6 mm lens installed in Dwingeloo, Netherlands, by Tammo Jan Dijkema. This camera started 4–5 December 2020.
3 2020 compared to previous years
In total 45743 orbits were collected in 2020, good for a second-best year after 2018 when as many as 49627 orbits were collected. Figure 3 compares the data from year to year and Table 2 lists the numeric values. 2020 did slightly better than 2019 when 42749 orbits were added to the dataset. From Table 2 we learn that 2020 brought slightly less favorable weather than previous two years. The average number of 27.1 nights with orbits was slightly less good than in 2019 with 27.8 and 2018 with 27.5. Also, the total number of nights that produced one or more orbits was less than previous two years with 325 nights in 2020 against 333 in 2019 and 330 in 2018. These numbers are actually huge when considering the often-cloudy atmosphere over the BeNeLux region. The number of complete clear nights is much lower and it would make a substantial difference if our cameras wouldn’t be operated 7 nights on 7.
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.
With less favorable weather 2020 ended with more orbits. The explanation why is obvious in Table 2 with the highest number of cameras on average capturing meteors, the highest number of cameras ever available and the highest minimum number of cameras capturing on average per month (not shown) are the reasons why more orbits could be harvested despite slightly less favorable weather. The use of AutoCAMS for the Watecs and of course the new RMS cameras made the difference!
The expansion of the network covering a larger surface than few years ago offered better chances for local clear sky in some regions while other parts 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. For that reason, all meteor camera networks in the world keep their cameras recording, regardless the weather. CAMS BeNeLux is the only video camera meteor network where several stations remain inactive when the weather looks unfavorable.
Figure 4 shows the number of orbits registered per month, apart from the peaks, 2020 did very well. The graph shows the fluctuations from month to month. Good or bad luck with some major showers, favorable or unfavorable weather and the fact that some participants every now and then cannot contribute to the network altogether explain the lows and the highs. Some months it may look like clear skies will never return, but even in the worst periods, orbits can be obtained.
Looking at the accumulated number of orbits over the years in Figure 5, we see how CAMS BeNeLux took off after 2016 when AutoCAMS made it easy to run cameras 7 on 7 and the network got at full strength in 2017. The graph mentions the totals at the end of each year. 2020 ended with an accumulated total of 234204 orbits collected by CAMS BeNeLux. Ten years ago, nobody would ever have expected this to happen. A project like CAMS BeNeLux isn’t a short-term project. The purpose is to keep it going as long as possible, keeping everyone motivated.
Ten 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. In 2020 all the CAMS networks together on average collected more than 1000 orbits per day!
Figure 6 shows the total number of orbits collected per calendar date since 2012 by CAMS BeNeLux alone, until end of 2019 (top) and until end of 2020 (bottom). End 2020 only 8 nights were left with less than 100 orbits with 23–24 January as the most miserable night since 2013 with as few as 5 orbits collected during all these years together. January seems to be the most challenging month for the weather. Also, the night 21-22 December remained poorly covered, no luck with the Ursids so far for CAMS BeNeLux.
End 2020 we had 177 nights with more than 500 orbits, 69 nights had more than 1000 orbits accumulated. The influence of the major meteor showers is reflected in the numbers of orbits: the Quadrantids 3–4 January, Lyrids 22–23 April, the delta Aquariids South end of July, most of the Perseid activity period with as best night 12–13 August with 4252 orbits for the Perseid maximum night. September proves to be a most rewarding meteor month although no major shower is active during this month. The 1882 orbits for 08–09 October were mainly due to the Draconid outburst in 2018. Past 9 years no really favorable circumstances occurred during the rich Orionid activity in October. Sooner or later our network should be lucky with this one! Of course, the Geminids provided large numbers of orbits, but a clear night for the Geminid maximum would change the numbers by a lot. From this overview it is very obvious how rich the meteor activity is in the second half of the year compared to the first half of the year.
4 Should we use more RMS cameras?
In 2019 the first RMS cameras were used to provide extra coverage to the CAMS BeNeLux network. Looking in Table 3 we see that the top 5 of best performing cameras are all 5 RMS cameras. The main reason is the larger FoV combined with a very good resolution:
- RMS 36mm 47 × 88°, 3.9 arcmin/pix;
- RMS 6mm 30 × 54°, 2.5 arcmin/pix;
- RMS 8mm 22 × 41°, 1.9 arcmin/pix;
- Watec 12mm 22 × 30°, 2.6 arcmin/pix (PAL);
- Watec 12mm 22 × 30°, 2.8 arcmin/pix (NTSC).
The RMS with 8mm lens comes closest to the classic CAMS configuration with the 1.2/12mm lens. The small FoV proves ideal in light polluted areas. For darker areas the RMS 6mm is the best compromise with significant larger FoV and comparable in resolution to the CAMS standard optics. The RMS 36mm can be used only at very dark skies but is less accurate for the many short meteor trails registered and therefore not recommended to be used within the CAMS network. The RMS doesn’t need AutoCAMS and functions 7 nights on 7, apart from some occasional technical issues. Financially the RMS is absolute more attractive, bought plug&play, 450 euro for the camera + Rpi computer against 600 euro for a Watec with optics without the required CAMS PC.
The most important advantage of the RMS is its calibration system. The classic CAMS system uses a single calibration for the entire night while the RMS system recalibrates for each single detection. The resolution of 2 to 4 arcmin/px isn’t the only parameter to look at. During the night the plate center of a CAMS camera, if it is well fixed, wanders around the reference and may deviate 10, 12 or more arcminutes just because of the expansion, contraction of the camera support (arm, wall, mount, …) due to variations in temperature. The classic CAMS approach ignores this completely but the RMS system recalibrates for each individual detection. This is an absolute superior approach compared to the use of a single calibration for a whole night.
Table 3 – Selection of 20 cameras with the highest scores in orbits during the year 2020.
|Camera||Total orbits||Nights active||Nights with orbits|
|003814 RMS Grapfontaine (B)||7430||361||239|
|000378 RMS Kattendijke (Nl)||4613||253||196|
|003815 RMS Genk (B)||4191||360||225|
|003830 RMS Mechelen (B)||3509||354||229|
|003800 RMS Langenfeld (D)||3078||295||200|
|000384 Watec Mechelen (B)||2793||366||261|
|000399 Watec Mechelen (B)||2633||365||257|
|000816 Watec Humain (B)||2607||354||231|
|003831 RMS Mechelen (B)||2559||361||230|
|003005 Watec Gronau (D)||2418||214||166|
|003003 Watec Gronau (D)||2404||207||159|
|000394 Watec Dourbes (B)||2381||366||238|
|000388 Watec Mechelen (B)||2330||366||242|
|000395 Watec Dourbes (B)||2305||366||238|
|003891 Watec Mechelen (B)||2276||343||227|
|000353 Watec Ermelo (Nl)||2271||193||169|
|003004 Watec Gronau (D)||2256||216||166|
|000814 Watec Grapfontaine (B)||2244||363||216|
|000379 Watec Wilderen (B)||2211||366||233|
|003035 Watec Oostkapelle (Nl)||2140||216||203|
The Watec cameras are old technology, the required framegrabbers become expensive and difficult to purchase. The many Watec cameras used in CAMS BeNeLux are definitely not yet to be replaced, but it would be wise to rather buy RMS cameras for any future extensions. With the budget required for two CAMS configured Watecs, three RMS cameras can be bought as plug & play or the components to build 6 homemade RMS cameras can be ordered for anyone handy. Another advantage is that the RMS uploads its data to the Global Meteor Network where the multi-station results are publicly shared while the CAMS data remains under embargo unavailable to anyone.
5 CAMS BeNeLux in the world
CAMS is a global project in which different networks around the world participate all using the same CAMS software.
Altogether the CAMS networks collected about 418000 orbits in 2020 (against 364000 in 2019), the largest number of orbits in a single year and about as many orbits what CAMS collected from its start in October 2010 until end 2016. The different CAMS networks had the following numbers of orbits (raw data):
- CAMS Arkansas 14389 (13630 in 2019);
- CAMS Australia 31240 (37837 in 2019, 7 months);
- CAMS BeNeLux 45743 (42749 in 2019);
- CAMS California 42281 (69924 in 2019);
- CAMS Chile 66556 (51700 in 2019);
- EXOSS Brazil 399 (342 in 2019);
- CAMS Florida 30303 (24944 in 2019);
- LOCAMS Arizona 44858 (49748 in 2019);
- CAMS Namibia 98581 (18875 in 2019, 4 months);
- CAMS New Zealand 21561 (23806 in 2019);
- CAMS Northern California 5413 (4582 in 2019);
- CAMS South Africa 13006 (9640 in 2019, 6 months);
- UAZ-CN 24003 (16085 in 2019);
- CAMS MA 992 (0 in 2019);
- CAMS Texas 960 (new network);
- Total 2020 ~418000 orbits (~364000 in 2019);
CAMS BeNeLux contributed almost 11% of the total score for 2020. Since the start of the CAMS project more than 1500000 video meteor orbits have been collected of which 234204 orbits by CAMS BeNeLux. This is currently the largest collection of optical orbits worldwide and the project is expected to be continued for more years to come.
Many thanks to all participants in the CAMS BeNeLux network for their dedicated efforts. Thanks to Martin Breukers and Carl Johannink for collecting the data, computing the trajectories and orbits and transferring the CAMS BeNeLux data to the CAMS headquarters. . These statistics are based on the data published on the CAMS website. In 2020, the CAMS BeNeLux team was operated by the following volunteers:
Hans Betlem (Leiden, Netherlands, CAMS 371, 372 and 373), Felix Bettonvil (Utrecht, Netherlands, CAMS 376 and 377), Jean-Marie Biets (Wilderen, Belgium, CAMS 379, 380, 381 and 382), Martin Breukers (Hengelo, Netherlands, CAMS 320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327, RMS 328 and 329), Guiseppe Canonaco (Genk, Belgium, RMS 3815), Bart Dessoy (Zoersel, Belgium, CAMS 397, 398, 804, 805, 806 and 888), Tammo Jan Dijkema (Dwingeloo, Netherlands, RMS 3198), Jean-Paul Dumoulin, Dominique Guiot and Christian Wanlin (Grapfontaine, Belgium, CAMS 814 and 815, RMS 003814), Uwe Glässner (Langenfeld, Germany, RMS 3800), Luc Gobin (Mechelen, Belgium, CAMS 3890, 3891, 3892 and 3893), Tioga Gulon (Nancy, France, CAMS 3900 and 3901), Robert Haas (Alphen aan de Rijn, Netherlands, CAMS 3160, 3161, 3162, 3163, 3164, 3165, 3166 and 3167), Robert Haas / Edwin van Dijk (Burlage, Germany, CAMS 801, 802, 821 and 822) , Robert Haas (Texel, Netherlands, CAMS 810, 811, 812 and 813), Klaas Jobse (Oostkapelle, Netherlands, CAMS 3030, 3031, 3032, 3033, 3034, 3035, 3036 and 3037), Carl Johannink (Gronau, Germany, CAMS 311, 312, 314, 317, 318, 3000, 3001, 3002, 3003, 3004 and 3005), Hervé Lamy (Ukkel, Belgium, CAMS 393), Hervé Lamy (Dourbes, Belgium, CAMS 394 and 395), Hervé Lamy (Humain, Belgium, CAMS 816), Koen Miskotte (Ermelo, Netherlands, CAMS 351, 352, 353 and 354), Jos Nijland (Terschelling, Netherlands, CAMS 841 and 842), Tim Polfliet (Gent, Belgium, CAMS 396), Steve Rau (Zillebeke, Belgium, CAMS 3850 and 3852), Adriana en Paul Roggemans (Mechelen, Belgium, CAMS 383, 384, 388, 389, 399 and 809, RMS 003830 and 003831), Hans Schremmer (Niederkruechten, Germany, CAMS 803) and Erwin van Ballegoij (Heesch, Netherlands, CAMS 347 and 348).
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