City Meteor Observing .
Although meteor observing is best enjoyed from a dark country location, it can be carried out with as much scientific value from the suburbs of Melbourne or any other major city. Although the light pollution will be more severe the closer you are to a major city, as long as you can obtain a limiting magnitude around +5, your ok. Getting started with meteor observing is simple. All you need is a note pad to record the meteors, a pen, a red torch (as faint as possible), warm clothes and a deck chair to lie back in (and lots of coffee !!).
Two of the most common types of meteor observations which are made are frequency observations where the number of meteors are counted and Mag Colour Train (MCT) observations where the brightness, colour and whether the meteor left a luminous column of light after it disappeared from view are recorded. Magnitude comparisons can be made with stars in the sky which are known. For instance, a meteor the brightness of Sirius would be said to be around -1 and a meteor the brightness of the belt stars of Orion would be said to be about magnitude +2. A list can be obtained via the main page of this website. Colour estimates are easy. The colour the meteor appears you record next to the magnitude.The train, if you see one should be recorded with the approximate duration in seconds. Any other features of the meteors which look out of the ordinary should be recorded also.
Now that you have a little background in meteor observing your ready to try and make some observations. This is the easy part, all you have to do is lie back in your deck chair and watch the sky for meteors, very easy !! A few other important notes about meteor observing before you start the observation. When observing meteors, the observations are done in 'Hour Blocks' to keep the information gained standard throughout the world and it makes the information useful. The time the observation starts and finishes should be recorded with the date when the hour started at the top of the form. The time format for this area is AEST ie. not daylight savings time.
Other necessary information to record before you start the hour is the direction your facing, if there is any obstructions in your field of view and very importantly the limiting magnitude of the sky at the start of the hour. Basically limiting magnitude means what is the magnitude of the faintest star you can see! When your making your first observations, an estimate would be fine.
One thing to bear in mind, with a brighter sky and lower limiting magnitude, your rates of meteors seen will be lower.
Good Luck and Clear Skies,
Adam Marsh, ASV Meteor Section.