CAMS stands for “Cameras for All sky Meteor Surveillance” and was set up by the team of Peter Jenniskens and Pete Gural to validate minor meteor showers. The project was funded by NASA’s Planetary Astronomy program in July 2008. In first instance two CAMS platforms were planned with 20 cameras each, installed at Fremont Peak Observatory and Lick Observatory, both in California USA. Solving all the software challenges required a lot of effort and a first test video took place in 2009 during the Lyrid Shower maximum. The first digital video recording proved to process the data too slowly for a night of data before the next night arrived. This was solved by the implementation of a new Video Management System in May 2010. The system installed at Fremont Peak Observatory proved to function well as tested in August 2010. While the formal installation at Lick Observatory took a bit of delay, a third 20 camera site was agreed to be installed at Mountain View.
The first light for CAMS took place on 11 November 2010 when Pete Gural had the processing and coincidence software ready. With only 22 of the 40 cameras operational at two sites of the three sites planned, 15 orbits were obtained while until then only 11 accurate orbits were known for the date corresponding to solar longitude 222°. Peter Jenniskens determined his goal: “To obtain at least 100 precise orbits per degree of solar longitude in three years of CAMS operation”. Step by step Pete Gural improved and completed the CAMS software like the recalibration tool, the orbital elements part, etc. during the first months of 2011. On 23 April 2011 the third station at Lick Observatory was finally operational. The Mountain View station moved to Lodi in May 2011.
In June 2011 Pete Gural was ready with his one-camera version of CAMS for testing, the so called Single-CAMS. This would allow amateurs to join into the CAMS project. Dave Samuels was the first to start operating one Watec 902 H2 Ultimate camera as first Single Camera CAMS station on 15 August 2011.
Two of the CAMS units from Lodi were moved to Europe to observe the Draconid outburst of 8 October 2011. The Draconids observing project involved some Dutch amateurs who became the first European amateurs to get some experience as CAMS operators. After the successful Draconids observations, Peter Jenniskens stayed a few weeks in the Netherlands and operated four cameras on five nights 21–27 October 2011 from two stations assisted by Carl Johannink at Gronau (Germany). A talk about CAMS by Peter Jenniskens at the annual meteor observers’ day in Heesch, the Netherlands, on 29 October 2011 triggered a lot of interest among the Belgian and Dutch amateurs who attended the meeting. The impressive results obtained in just one week before this meeting got several amateurs dreaming about Single CAMS in the BeNeLux. Meanwhile Dave Samuels contributed on average 20 trajectories per night with his single CAMS to the main CAMS stations in California.
As the CAMS project produced thousands of accurate meteor orbits, it proved most successful to meet its target to confirm the minor meteor streams listed in the IAU Working list of Meteor Showers. Several minor showers were confirmed and documented in a number of published papers. End 2011 the total harvest in orbits by CAMS was 47839 orbits, with as top night 13-14 December 2011 when all 60 cameras of the 3 stations + one single CAMS camera were operational and yielded as many as 1586 orbits.
The CAMS BeNeLux network started in March 2012 and turned the CAMS project into a global project. Two other Single CAMS networks were started in 2014 in Florida and at the Mid Atlantic East Coast of the US. End 2014 two professional CAMS stations got operational in New Zealand. Three professional CAMS stations were started in 2016 in the United Arab Emirates as well as a CAMS network at Lowell Observatory, Arizona, US. A Single CAMS network was started in 2017 in South Africa.
A first thorough analysis was made on the dataset collected until March 2013, which included the first 110367 orbits collected by CAMS, mainly by the three CAMS stations in California. Results were published in a series of papers in the journal Icarus. Several so far unknown meteor showers were discovered and new insights were obtained about many poorly known meteor showers. The CAMS project proved to be highly successful in detecting unexpected outbursts, enhanced activity displays and short lived meteor shower activity. At the end of 2016 the CAMS project had collected the impressive number of 447230 accurate meteor orbits. About 14% of these were contributed by the amateur CAMS BeNeLux network.
The current capacity and the global nature of the CAMS project make it the most successful meteor project ever. With the current status of the CAMS network the complex dust distribution in our Solar System will reveal more and more of its secrets and exciting discoveries may be ahead.