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Tracking meteor trails

NSF Award:

Collaborative Research: Science with LWA1  (University of New Mexico)

Collaborative Research: Science with LWA1  (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University)

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The Long Wavelength Array (LWA), a radio telescope in New Mexico, detects and images meteor trails at low radio frequencies, providing measurements of wind profiles in the lower ionosphere/thermosphere. 

The LWA's first station (LWA1) is highly sensitive to meteors because of 260 dual-polarization dipoles arranged over several acres on the Very Large Array site. The LWA1's detection frequencies (20 to 80 MHz) are so precise that they can capture the dense trails created by small meteors in the ionosphere. Although the radio telescope array was designed for astronomy, it is now also contributing to the understanding of the Earth's atmosphere. 

LWA1 was completed in April 2011 and gathers data for a variety of observational programs including cosmic dawn, the name given to the earliest stages of star and galaxy formation. LWA1 provides versatile and unique capabilities for galactic, pulsar and planetary science as well as space weather and cosmology, and searches for passing astrophysical objects. LWA1 also has an observing mode that images the sky over the array in near real-time and places those images on a website called LWA-TV



  • three-hour observation of the entire sky over new mexico using the long-wavelength array radio telescope's station number one
The entire sky over New Mexico as captured by the LWA1.
Greg Taylor, University of New Mexico

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