From Santa’s sleigh to celestial objects leading kings to babies, this is a big week for unexpected things showing up in the night sky. What’s not so unexpected are the small meteor showers that hit Earth on a daily basis. These tend to only catch our attention when the meteors are big enough to see and plentiful enough to last a while, but there’s actually enough debris in our solar system that it pelts the Earth every night. And if you have a Raspberry Pi, you can set it up to detect meteor showers even when they’re too small to get major coverage.
We have BBC’s Sky at Night magazine to thank for this project, which has two goals: The first is to allow you to record video and stills of meteor showers even when you can’t stay up to watch them, and the second is to send data to a global database to help researchers learn more about the behavior of meteorites and other satellites.
To build this project, you’ll first need at least a Raspberry Pi 3B+ (for Wi-Fi) with a case, fan, and power supply. After that, you’ll need a micro-SD card with at least 128GB of storage, a 1080p camera module (Sky at Night suggests to IMX291), a 5V power supply and cable, plus ethernet and PoE injector cables. Oh, and you’ll want a security camera housing and mounting bracket to conveniently attach it to an outside surface.
Once you have everything in hand, just follow the instructions in Sky at Night’s guide to put everything together- it shouldn’t take much more than a screwdriver and perhaps a drill, depending on where you mount it.
On the software side of things, you’ll want to download the free Raspberry Pi Meteor Station (RMS) software from the Global Meteor Network to your microSD card, which will both help set up your Pi to record and will configure it to send data back to the Global Meteor Network. You will need a camera code to use the software, which you can get by emailing the GMN team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After you get everything set up, your new meteor detector will run continuously to capture data for researchers, but it will also help you make sure you don’t miss any cloud breaks ever again.
Whether or not you might detect a certain jolly old elf on the evening of the 24th, we cannot say.