Meteor echo counts

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Tracie Heywood

I’m a visual observer rather than a radio observer, but I’ll reply as best I can.

To quote from the (forward scatter) radio observing notes in use during my time as SPA Meteor Section Director:

Radio meteor detection does not differentiate between shower meteors and sporadics and therefore your counts will represent the total meteor activity detected. The number of echoes detected will depend on many factors, including the sensitivity of your equipment, your distance from the transmitter, the direction of the shower radiant relative to the transmitter and your receiver, and, of course, the activity level of the meteor shower. The more sensitive radio systems are also capable of picking up echoes related to particles smaller than those that produce naked eye meteors and therefore the relative strengths of meteor showers seen by radio observers can differ from those seen by visual observers.”

Combining the count numbers seen by different observers is therefore difficult, but different observers should agree on the timing of any spikes in rates.

What can and can’t be seen in terms of radio echo counts is illustrated well by Bill Ward’s echo count graphs in this SPA report for the 2016 Perseid peak

Hence, my impression is that meteor radio echo counts primarily provide an interesting additional source of information that can be viewed alongside visual and video observing reports (and radio observations are of course are a useful fallback for observers frustrated by overcast skies).