International Meteor Conference in Armagh

More than a hundred meteor astronomers will gather in the Market Place Theatre, Armagh, from 17th to 19th September for the 2010 "International Meteor Conference" (IMC) organized by the Armagh Observatory. This is the first time the IMC has been held in either the UK or Ireland and people from more than 20 countries will be represented, including some from as far as Japan, Nepal, India, Venezuela and Australia. They will spend an active few days in Armagh hearing about the latest advances in meteor science and exchanging their best ideas in meteor work.

Meteors are the streaks of light that occur when solid material from space, often in the form of small pea-sized dust grains, impacts the Earth's atmosphere at high speed and vaporises. The scientific study of meteors allows us to predict and observe spectacular displays of "shooting stars" and to improve our understanding of the Earth's near-space environment.

Armagh Observatory has a long history of groundbreaking contributions to this field of Solar System astronomy, covering meteors and also the potential impacts of asteroids and comets on the Earth. The conference will start at the Market Place Theatre, Armagh, on Friday 17th September with a keynote lecture by Dr Bill Cooke of the Meteoroid Environments Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama, USA. This lecture will focus on how amateur astronomers can assist the NASA space programme by providing observational support to help detect potentially hazardous meteoroid showers.

Despite ongoing professional study of meteors, the "amateur" contribution to the subject is therefore of major importance. The meeting will strengthen these established "pro-am" interactions and provide a forum to highlight the role played in many areas of astronomy by members of the public - highly motivated amateur astronomers who record data using their own eyes (or photographic, video or radio equipment) and report the results to institutes such as Armagh Observatory for scientific analysis.

In meteor astronomy these largely amateur astronomers cooperate via the International Meteor Organization, which encourages and supports people to make substantial contributions to the field at a professional level - so-called 'Citizen Science'. One of the principal actions of the IMO is to bring together the most interested amateurs in this field for an annual meeting and to enable them to interact with leading professional scientists. The resulting International Meteor Conference has now been held in a dozen different European countries, this being the 29th such meeting.

The IMO invited the Armagh Observatory to organise the 2010 IMC. Astronomer David Asher said: "This year's meeting is already on course to break records as the most successful IMC ever, both in terms of the number of participants and the number of countries represented. This year the conference will be preceded by a two-day 'Fireball' workshop, which will be held in the Observatory on 15th and 16th September." He continued, "A large fraction of the participants will stay at the Armagh City Youth Hostel, without which the IMC could not have been brought here."

Observations of meteor showers have motivated many young people to follow a career in science or engineering. These skills are at the heart of modern economic growth and development, and several such young people will be attending the IMC in Armagh.

The Armagh Observatory is an astronomical research institute with a rich heritage, supported by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT: David Asher at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; djaat signarm.ac.uk; URL: International Meteor Conference.

Last Revised: 2010 August 31st