The need for international cooperation in meteor work has existed for a long time. Therefore, in 1979, a first International Meteor Weekend was held near Bonn, Germany. After that time, similar meetings were held every one to two years in Belgium, Germany or the Netherlands. Each weekend was more successful than the previous one; an ever growing number of countries was represented and the 1986 and 1988 meetings even saw professional attendance. At the same time, international contacts also grew outside Europe, although these were mainly kept up through the personal correspondence of numerous active meteor amateurs. As a result of this internationalization of amateur astronomy, WGN, originally “Werkgroepnieuws”, a circular in Dutch for observers in Belgium and the Netherlands, grew into a truly international journal in English with contributions from all over the world. It was therefore decided at the 1988 International Meteor Conference in Oldenzaal, the Netherlands, that an International Meteor Organization had to be founded with WGN as its principal journal.
In less than a year, about 100 meteor workers from Europe, North- America, the former Soviet-Union, Australia and Japan, among them several professionals, were prepared to act as founding members for this organization. In order to guarantee its truly international character, the IMO got legal status as an international scientific non-profit making organization. The organization’s constitution was approved at the 1989 International Meteor Conference in Balatonfoldvar, Hungary.
While this initiative was greated with great enthusiasm by a large majority of meteor workers, there where some initial reservations, too, but they faded quickly once it became clear to everyone that the IMO’s goal was not to take over the role of local meteor organizations, but rather to reinforce them, especially when the benefits of global over local analyses of meteor data became evident. Already during the first years of its existence, the IMO has managed to get world-wide recognition from amateurs as well as professionals, including Commission 22 (Meteors & Interplanetary Dust) of the International Astronomical Union.
After the foundation of the IMO, the International Meteor Conference (IMC) became the IMO’s annual conference. The IMO Council awards the local organization to a different group of meteor workers each year, ensuring a fair distribution of conference locations over Europe, provides assistance to the local organizers, and publishes its proceedings. While the 1990 IMC in Violau, Germany had less than 60 participants, all IMCs since the 2010 event in Armagh, Northern Ireland, would have over 100 participants, with the current record for 2016 IMC in Egmond, the Netherlands, with 157 amateur and professional meteor workers present at the conference. The IMCs are also attended by more and more non-European participants. While the IMCs have attained a high level, and despite their growth over the years, they have nevertheless managed to preserve their initial spirit of a get-together of like-minded people sharing their experiences and results and often becoming friends for life.
The benefits of having an IMO lie particularly in the international coordination of meteor work and uniform observing standards, allowing in turn for global analyses of observational data, the results of which have broadened and deepened our insights in the meteoric phenomenon. All data submitted to the IMO can be consulted in the corresponding database and many of the results have been published in our bimonthly journal, WGN, and in the IMC proceedings.
New initiatives are being taken all the time; we only mention a few here. A feature that received a lot of appreciation from members and other visitors of our website alike, are the live activity graphs of major meteor showers. During recent years, we have especially focused on outreach and initiatives for the beginning meteor observer. The Handbook for Meteor Observers was completely revised and provides valuable information, not only on how to observe meteors, but also gives the necessary background about meteors, as well as insight in how your observations may contribute to our understanding of this phenomenon. To complement the Handbook, a Meteor Shower Workbook was composed, with valuable info on the most important meteor showers throughout the year. This Workbook will be regularly revised and updated. Very recently, the IMO decided to support an initiative of the American Meteor Society to collect fireball sightings from the public at large by offering an on-line form which is easy to fill out and which other meteor organizations are welcome to incorporate in their website. And most recently, the IMO decided to renew its entire website, of which you see the result now.
More than 250 meteor workers world-wide support the goals of the IMO by being a member. Isn’t it time you joined the IMO too?