Ed Majden's Observatory
Courtenay, BC, CANADA

Lat: 49 deg 40' 36.4" N - Long: 125 deg 00' 36.2" W

This observatory was built with the help of friends over several years. It is a work in progress. The dome is home built, made of plywood arcs cut from 3/4" plywood and covered with tempered masonite and then painted with neoprene sundeck coat for weather protection. Several volunteers aided in this effort but Geoff Culliton deserves a mention along with my brother-in-law Lyle Wade and friend, Frank Davis. At present it has just undergone a major refit thanks to the efforts of a good friend and colleague John Purdy. His photo is included below doing roof repairs on the building proper. John has also made special accessories for the various instruments, as he is a talented hobby machinist and amateur astronomer. Most of my colleagues are ex or retired R.C.A.F./C.A.F. veterans!


Dome skeleton made from 3/4 inch plywood arc sections.

Geoff Culliton screwing down dome gore sections.

John Purdy working on roof repairs.

A Sandia Bolide Detection Camera was installed on the roof thanks to Richard Spalding of Sandia Labs in the United States. This is part of a West Coast Fireball Tracking Network overseen by Dr. Jeremy Tatum, retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Victoria. Dr. Tatum asked me to be the unofficial coordinator of this West Coast Network. He still assists with the technical work of triangulating fireballs captured by these All-sky Cameras. A picture of one of the Convex Sandia All-Sky Cameras is shown below. It operates 24 hours per day recording on 8-hour vhs tapes. A new auto recording computer capture fisheye camera is also being installed at this site. Sandia Labs in the U.S.A also provided this system. It will detect moving objects and dump the images to a PC computer hard drive. It uses a special interface box designed at Sandia Labs including a software package called Sentinel installed under the Linux operating system.

Washington State fireball detection near the SE horizon! North is to the right with East at the bottom. A final joint research paper is in progress. No meteorite as yet has been found. The fireball is the bright flare at the horizon. This is a single frame capture.

Convex type Sandia All-Sky Bolide Detection Camera.

One of the main areas of research conducted at this Observatory is Meteor Spectroscopy. This work is described elsewhere on this web page.

The main observatory at present houses a Celestron C14 S.C.T. Auxiliary equipment includes an Optec SSP-3 solid state Photometer and an SBig ST-6 CCD Camera. A Celestron 8 inch Schmidt Camera will soon be added on the telescope mount for wide field photography.

One of the big problems today is light pollution. A problem most astronomers have to contend with today.

Ed Majden


Ed Majden
Sandia Bolide Detection Station Courtenay B.C. CANADA




The public and amateur astronomers should be encouraged to fill out fireball report forms which are listed below. To the novice these forms may look a bit daunting but fill them out as best you can. Perhaps the most important thing is to supply correct contact information, such as an email address, phone number, location, date and time. This will allow a fireball investigator to contact you in case he or she needs further information.

As the operator of a Sandia All-sky Patrol Camera on mid Vancouver Island I would like to be alerted about fireballs observed over British Columbia and adjacent Pacific North West U.S. States. Prompt reporting is important as video tapes are only kept for about a week and then used again. We need the approximate time and date you observed the fireball so tapes can be searched. Below is a paper written by Dr. Jeremy Tatum explaining the information he needs to do the analysis of a fireball trajectory. This is very time consuming so he insists on accurate data secured by an interview by a trained investigator.

What is a Fireball?

The Observer's Handbook 2005 published by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada defines it as such: quote: "Exceptionally bright meteors (>magnitude minus 5) that are spectacular enough to light up a wide area and attract public attention are generally referred to as fireballs", un-quote. Magnitude minus 5 does not mean much to the casual observer. By this we mean a fireball somewhat brighter than the planet Venus. We of course won't be upset if your fireball does not meet this standard. If you report a date and time the tapes will be searched. The best method of alerting me is by the email address above.

Peekskill Fireball Video

You can view the Peekskill N.Y. fireball video at:

http://starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/Videos/StarChild/solar_system/fireball.avi or


This fireball was recorded with a camcorder by some alert fan at a football game on October 9, 1992. One meteorite was recovered after it impacted the rear end of a car. The meteoroid fragmented so there are likely other fragments along the path but as far as I know none have been recovered. If you have the opportunity to video tape or photograph such an event by all means do so as valuable data can be extracted from such pictures.










The Meteorites and Impacts Advisory Committee (MIAC) of the Canadian Space Agency

http://miac.uqac.ca/MIAC/fireball.htm       MIAC


FROM THE USA and other locations:

The American Meteor Society:

http://www.amsmeteors.org/fireball/report.html  AMS

International Meteor Organization:

http://www.imo.net/fireball/report.html  IMO

North American Meteor Network


Dutch Meteor Society

http://www.xs4all.nl/~dmsweb/fireballs/fireball.html DMS

Fireball report form Central Europe
Astronomical Institute
Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic


Spanish Photographic Meteor Network



There are probably other organizations that collect reports but these will get you started. You can fill out more than one report if you wish.

Jeremy B. Tatum

Following the appearance of a spectacular fireball there is usually an enormous flood of information in the media, and seemingly unending email and telephone messages. This typically includes detailed descriptions of the colour of the object and unsupported speculations as to the size of the object, which direction it was moving in and where it probably landed. Yet it is an unfortunate fact that almost none of the information is of use to the mathematically-trained investigator who undertakes to calculate the atmospheric trajectory of the object.

In this article I describe the information that is needed by a professional scientist who has the mathematical expertise to calculate the trajectory.

There are perhaps three stages in the gathering of data, which I can describe as Immediate, Preliminary and Detailed.

The Immediate Stage. Immediately following a fireball, newspaper, radio and television stations, observatories, astronomy clubs and so on are inundated with telephone calls, and the person who handles these calls may not be trained in or even particularly interested in meteors, but who will take down the information given and will eventually pass them on to an interested investigator. The question I ask and answer at this stage is: What information should the person handling the calls record from the witness who calls in? I can answer this definitively and simply. The information that must be recorded at that stage is:

The name and telephone number or email address of the witness.

Indeed at this stage that is really the only information that is absolutely essential. If this is not recorded, no use whatever can be made of that particular witness's observation. Obvious though this may appear, my experience has all too often been that some organization will call me to say that they have received dozens of telephone calls, but they have not recorded contact information for a single witness.

The Preliminary Stage. Usually after an investigator has been given a list of telephone numbers or email addresses he or she (for brevity hereafter "he") will want to know which witnesses he will want to question in more detail. He will then telephone or email (for brevity hereafter "telephone") the witnesses and ask some Preliminary Questions. These preliminary questions might also be asked by the original person or institute who took the calls. The following are the questions that I normally ask at this stage. I ask all of them, and at that stage I do not need to know anything else, but I do need to know the answers to these questions in order to decide whether to investigate that particular witness further.

  1. What city or town were you in or near when you saw the meteor?
  2. Was it to the north of you, south of you, east of you, or west of you?
  3. Did it move from left to right, or from right to left?
  4. How long was it in the sky for--a second, a minute or an hour?
  5. Did you hear any sound, either at the time of the meteor or later?
  6. Were you driving a car when you saw it?

The reasons for these questions are as follows. The reason for (a) is surely obvious--you need to know roughly where the witness was, amongst other things in order to decide whether it is practical to go and visit the witness for an in situ interview. Questions (b) and (c) are important. It seems not to be understood as readily as it might be that is it not remotely possible even in the roughest approximation to determine the direction of motion of a meteor from observations at a single station. Therefore a statement that "It was moving northwards" is meaningless to an investigator and does not give him in any way the information that he needs at this stage. In order to determine the atmospheric trajectory of a fireball from eyewitness observations it is essential to have witnesses on both sides of the path. Therefore we need some witnesses who saw the meteor move from left to right and others who saw it move from right to left. We do not need to be told, at this stage, that it was moving "west"--because it is simply not possible to determine that.

The question about the time is this: If the witness says anything other than "just a few seconds", then we know that he has not seen the meteor.

If there is any sound, this increases the likelihood that the meteoroid was relatively close to the witness, or that a meteorite might be deposited. The investigator will probably want to interview that witness in more depth.

It usually turns out that many witnesses are driving. Experience shows that it is not possible to get reliable quantitative measurements of angles from someone who was driving a car. Therefore, if the witness was driving, the investigator will probably not want to proceed further with that witness. Sailors and aircraft pilots generally regard themselves as particularly skilled at navigation, but observations from them are perhaps the most unreliable and misleading of all, and would not normally be followed up by an experienced fireball investigator.

The preliminary questions determine which witnesses will be selected by an investigator for detailed interview. It is then time for

The Detailed Stage. A detailed interview of a witness needs to be done:

  1. By a trained interviewer.
  2. In situ (i.e. at the exact location where the witness was at the time of the observation.
  3. Within a week at most of the observation.
  4. The angles indicated by the witness have to be measured
  5. With instruments, such as compass and clinometer.

When I, as principal investigator of a particular fireball, start to calculate the atmospheric trajectory and possible impact area, I first of all look to see whether all of these conditions have been satisfied. If any one of these conditions is not satisfied for a given witness, that witness's observations are excluded from the calculations.

So, what does a trained interviewer do, and what questions does he ask? The witness will often give all sorts of qualitative information, often about the colour, and how big it was, and where he saw it land, and how surprised he was, and he may well ramble on with a lot of information that cannot be used in the calculation. He may even talk about UFOs or flying saucers, though in my experience this is surprisingly rare. He will often say that the fireball was very close (just on the other side of that tree), or that it moved in a curved arc, or that he heard a simultaneous swishing sound, or describe some other phenomenon which you know or believe to be impossible. The first and most important rule of all for an interviewer is this: No matter how rambling, how uninformed, or even how silly a witness may appear, it is of paramount importance at all times to be civil, patient and polite and to be grateful to the witness who has gone to great trouble to tell you what he saw and is genuinely interested in the phenomenon. There is never any excuse whatever for belittling the witness or to pour scorn on or openly express disbelief at what he describes.

The witness will give a great deal of qualitative information, but in fact what is needed by the mathematical investigator is seven numbers, without which he cannot do the calculation.

The interviewer asks the witness to point to where in the sky he first clearly saw the fireball. Where in relation to that tree, that house, and so on. The interviewer must then measure with a compass the azimuth ("bearing") of that point and with a clinometer its altitude ("elevation"). He then asks where the witness last clearly saw the fireball, and again he measures the azimuth and altitude. These angles will normally be recorded to a degree, though it will be understood that the actual precision of an eyewitness recall may well be no better than ten degrees. The interviewer will normally report the azimuth relative to true geographic north rather than magnetic north. That is, the interviewer will make sure that he has made the necessary correction for magnetic declination. If he does not know how to do this, he should report to the investigator that the azimuth is in relation to magnetic north, and the investigator will then make the necessary correction. Communication between the interviewer and the investigator should make this clear. A good map will give the magnetic declination for a given year plus its annual rate of change. (Note to astronomers: In case you are confused, the word "declination" in geophysics is used in quite a different and unrelated sense from its use in astronomy.)

The two azimuths and two altitudes are four of the seven required numbers. Two of the remaining numbers required are the geographic latitude and longitude of the observer. A precision of one arc minute is usually more than adequate for this, and may be obtained quite satisfactorily from a good map on which the latitude and longitudes are given to that precision. The coordinates can also be obtained the modern way with a GPS--but if the interviewer reports the coordinates to a precision of a fraction of an arcsecond rather than to the required one arcminute, I may assume that the interviewer has misunderstood instructions and hence I may not use the observation. The point is that it is meaningless to pretend to achieve subarcsecond precision from eyewitness observations. If the witness happened to have been at the top of Mount Everest, by all means record the height above sea level as well, but usually this is not necessary given the imprecision of eyewitness observations. (Photographic observations are another thing altogether and require a great deal more.)

The seventh number is the time of the observation, to the minute if the witness made a note of it. Be sure to state the time zone and whether daylight-saving time was in effect. Do not use military jargon such as "fifteen hundred hours" or "zulu". All that will happen if you do is that the investigator will ask you what on Earth you mean.

These seven numbers from each witness are necessary and sufficient to do the trajectory calculation. Without them, the calculation cannot be done. Additional information is not used in the calculation.

Some additional information might be of interest (not necessarily of "use"!) such as how bright it was or what colour it was. If you say "It was magnitude minus twelve", I shall reply "Oh, how interesting! With what instrument did you measure this?" If you say "Brighter than the Full Moon" I shall ask "Do you mean the radiance or the irradiance?" So beware of giving quantitative data that you haven't measured! As for colour, there are so many factors that can influence the perceived colour for a fireball that we cannot really deduce anything scientific from the reported colour, unless we have a spectrum. The colour of a fireball is reported surprisingly often as "green". As I say, there are so many things that can affect the perceived colour that any attempt (especially given authoritatively) to explain what causes the green (or other) colour is speculative, and in any case is not used in the calculation of the atmospheric trajectory. The only thing that can be said with absolute certainty about the reported green colour of a fireball is that it is not caused by copper!

Reports of sound are of considerable interest. The sound can be simultaneous or delayed. Opinion is divided as to the reality of simultaneous sound, but it is the job of the interviewer merely to record (and neither to believe nor to disbelieve) what the observer describes. Delayed sound usually follows by several minutes, and the interviewer should do his best to get the witness to estimate as well as possible the delay.

I hope this helps. It will certainly help the mathematical investigator if you can do this.

Visit my Clear Sky Clock


Ed Majden - Courtenay B.C.


     A typical Leonid meteor spectrum secured with an image intensified video spectrograph at EMO Courtenay, B.C. CANADA is shown below. This spectrum was secured using simple equipment. An experimental grade type MX9944/UV - 2nd generation 25 mm diameter image intensifier purchased on the surplus market was used. A standard Canon F-1.4 - 50 mm lens fitted with a precision 600 g/mm blazed B&L replica transmission diffraction grating imaged the spectrum on the image intensifier input screen. The intensifier output screen was imaged by a Super 8 video camcorder recording on a standard  VHS recorder. The field of view is around 25 degrees. The "zero order" image of the meteor is on the extreme left. The "first order" spectrum is recorded with blue on the left with red to the right. The intensifier has rather limited sensitivity at the blue end so recorded lines are weak. Part of the red end of the spectrum was not recorded as it was off the screen to the right. The intensifier is mainly sensitive from around 450.0 nm to around 900.0 nm but as noted features below 450.0 nm are faint. Of special interest in this spectrum is the so called forbidden line of oxygen O I  3F recorded at 557.7 nm which is clearly recorded trailing the main spectrum. This line was first identified by Canadian astronomer, Ian Halliday in 1958. Earlier film spectra were reviewed and this was also found in an early Leonid spectrum designated as Number 29 on Millman's World List of Meteor Spectra. See: R.A.S.C. Journal, Vol. 54, Number 4, p.189-192, August 1960.

     This program was conducted on the morning of November 18, 2001.110 video meteor images were recorded during this program, 60 "zero order" images and 50 "1st order" spectra. A similar program was planned for 2002 but was unfortunately clouded out at my location.

     I would like to thank Dr, Jiri Borovicka at Ondrejov Observatory in the Czech Republic for doing the scan of this


Edward Majden - R.A.S.C. Victoria Centre - A.M.S. Meteor Spectroscopy

EMO Courtenay B.C. CANADA Lat.49o 40' 33.5" N-Long. 125o 00' 37.1 W (GPS)





Figure 1.  Leonid spectrum.  Time stamp is PST Pacific Standard Time +8 hrs for U.T.


Figure 2.


        For comparison purposes a past Perseid meteor spectrum has been added.  It was secured with the same set-up as above. Frame capture was done on a MAC computer and saved in grey scale format.  The spectra scan is a composite carried out by Jiri Borovicka at Ondrejov Observatory.

Figure 1.  Perseid spectrum.  Time stamp is PDT  Pacific Daylight Time   + 7 hrs U.T.

Figure 2.



REFR: JRASC 92: 153-156, 1998 JUNE - RESEARCH NOTE
Jiri Borovicka and Edward P. Majden


This sporadic meteor spectrum was obtained using a Learning Technologies thin film holographic type grating. The spectrum is undergoing measurement by Dr. Josep M. Trigo Rodriguez of the Spanish Photographic Meteor Network. This is to establish whether these inexpensive type of gratings are useful for meteor spectroscopy by amateurs. The preliminary report was published by Ed Majden as a Research Note in the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada: Vol 92: 91-92, 1998 April JRASC

1983 Objective Prism Perseid Meteor Spectrum

A faint Perseid spectrum showing the O I forbidden line of Oxygen at 557.7 nm. Not published but sent to Peter M. Millman at NRCC for his evaluation. Sadly Dr. Millman passed away so I don't know what became of the negative.


11/12 August 1972 Boundary Bay, B.C. Perseid 01:35 PST
sent to PM Millman
11/12 August 1972 Boundary Bay, B.C. Perseid 02:17 PST
11/12 August 1977 Courtenay B.C. Perseid 01:15 PST
12/13 August 1978 Courtenay B.C. Perseid 02:00 PST
12/13 August 1979 Courtenay B.C. Perseid 23:40 PST
11/12 August 1980 Courtenay B.C. Perseid 01:54 PST
12/13 August 1983 Forbidden Plateau B.C. Perseid 02:38 PST
12/13 August 1983 Forbidden Plateau B.C. Perseid 01:14 PST
12/13 August 1983 Forbidden Plateau B.C. No dispersion
11/12 August 1985 Point Holmes B.C. non-shower poor focus 00:20 PST
11/12 August 1985 Point Holmes B.C. Perseid 00:50 PST
12/13 August 1986 Courtenay B.C. Perseid 01:20 PST
12/13 August 1986 Courtenay B.C. non shower no dispersion 01:35 PST
11/12 August 1994 Courtenay B.C. Perseid Grating spectrum
8/9 June 1997 Courtenay B.C. Sporadic Holographic Grating See above.

The SPECTROGRAPHS used by Ed Majden

F-24 Aero Camera lens cone with an f-2.9 - 8 inch f.l Pentac lens fitted with a 27 deg 45' objective prism with a refractive index of 1.71 for the 589 nm line. This unit has been modified to accept a 4X5 inch 6 platen Graphmatic film holder.

Two, 2-1/4 X 2-1/4 inch roll film type cameras mounted with objective transmission gratings behind a chopping shutter.

The grey Camera is a Bronica and the other is a Hasselblad. An automatic system using used Hasselblad EL/M motor driven cameras is being worked on.

This is a video image intensifier spectrograph recording system using a 2nd generation 25 mm MCP Image intensifier and a Canon L2 Super 8 - 1/2 inch format video camera. Such a system will record spectra as faint as +3.0 magnitude where photographic systems using film with standard lenses are limited to meteors brighter than -2.0 magnitude. This unit is still under construction. I have recorded several video spectra of Perseids and Leonids with a prototype system. Copies have been sent to Peter Jenniskens at SETI/NASA for his meteor spectra archives. Hopefully they will eventually be measured. Since 9/11 it is unfortunately difficult to get U.S. built 2nd and 3rd generation intensifiers unless you are a U.S. resident.




I am also a volunteer participant in the Spacewatch FMO Project searching for fast moving asteroids on CCD images taken with a 0.9 meter telescope at Kit Peak.

On 2004 June 19, I was fortunate enough to identify an FMO designated as:

MPEC 2004 - M34


2004 MV2

This is the first FMO found by a volunteer from CANADA under the FMO Project. If you go to the link above, click on discoveries for a list of objects found thus far under the FMO Project. If you click on the Members Page, then NEWS: NEW FMO you can see images of the FMOs found.

Ed Majden
Courtenay, B.C. CANADA

Orbit plots courtesy of Marco Langbroek, DMS, FMO list Moderator

2nd FMO Asteroid Co-discovery
MPEC 2005 NX55




Courtenay, BC Map Popup

The British Columbia Meteor Network

Leonid Meteor Spectra - Jiri Borovicka Ondrejov

Optical Meteor Spectra - NASA

Spanish Fireball Network

ESO Spectrum

IAU Commission 22 Meteors

IMO Video Meteors

DMS Web Links

MIAC Web page


My thanks to Dennis Hiebert for his help with my web page.
You can visit his website at The True North, Strong and Free