The Perseid Project
July 21st, 2010
The Perseid Laptop Meteor Observation Project uses the Internet to accomplish something that has never been done before: combine the observations of gobs of people in order to build a three-dimensional map of a meteor stream. For all of history, meteors have been observed by independent observers, giving us an ant’s-eye view of the forest. But with the Internet, the ants can combine their observations and, for the first time in history, we will be able to see the whole forest at once!
What equipment do I need to participate?The equipment required is trivial: a laptop and an eyeball -- two eyeballs is even better. All you do is watch the meteors and click the mouse whenever you see a meteor. A small Java applet records the time of your mouseclicks into a file. The next day, you email that file to us. (We’re looking into making apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, and other platforms -- your feedback here is appreciated.)
What does it cost?Absolutely nothing. We don’t want your money. This is a community effort requiring nothing but your own participation.
What must I do?First, you download the Perseid program onto your laptop. On the night of Wednesday-Thursday, August 11-12, you go outside sometime after midnight, lie down, turn on your laptop, and launch the Perseid program. Whenever you see a meteor, you click the mouse. Observe meteors for as long as you want. When you’re done observing, quit the Perseid program and shut down your laptop. The next day, type your longitude and latitude into the log file, and email it to us. That’s all it takes. There is a geographical restriction: you must be in the Northern Hemisphere. Perseids are visible only in the Northern Hemisphere and the further north you are, the better the viewing.
Do I get anything in return?Not much. You get the fun of participating in a community effort that constitutes real scientific research. I’ll credit you for your contribution, if you request it. And the results will be on a webpage for you to admire.
Where do I start?Right here.