Welcome to the first WGN issue of 2018! The start of a new year offers an opportunity to reflect: what did we achieve in the past year? Which opportunities are at hand and what do we want to achieve in the near future? Sanity check: what does the International Meteor Organization stand for? What are its goals? Are we on the right track or do we need to refocus?

IMO’s mission

In my view, IMO’s very reasons of existence are to connect meteor workers so they can share their work and passion for meteors, to aid the meteor community by collection and distribution of data and information, to foster new ideas, and to make things happen. All these aspects contribute to the advance of meteor science. IMO is at its best when its officers sense what is hanging in the air, catalyze promising evolutions, and help make things happen. Recent examples are the development of the video flux viewer and the organization of the visual and spectroscopic workshops at the IMC 2018.

Connecting people

As an international organization, IMO has torn down walls and enables meteor workers around the globe to get to know each other and to collaborate. New ideas get born when you bring people together. The IMC, IMO’s annual conference, is the most powerful way of bringing meteor workers together, and each IMC concludes with a burst of new ideas, collaborations and the gorgeous feeling of shared passion by fellow meteor enthusiasts who very often have become good friends. Nowadays, the IMO website, the IMO Facebook page, and the IMO forum provide a great platform to strengthen contacts throughout the year. So show your meteor work online, and employ these tools to reach out and connect!

Information is one of the pillars of our organization. IMO informs beginners about all aspects of meteor science and presents an overview of recent meteor- related news on the IMO website and more in-depth analyses and stories in WGN or in the Proceedings of the IMC. As a courtesy towards IMO members, the IMO Council has decided to provide the pdf version of the Handbook For Meteor Observers and the Meteor Shower Handbook for free to IMO members. IMO’s annual Meteor Shower Calendar is an invaluable tool for meteor observers, presented for free on the IMO website.

Gathering and distributing data

An essential aspect of meteor science is gathering data. IMO strives to define objective and efficient observation methods and data formats, to provide clear instructions to observers, to collect data worldwide in a user-friendly way, and to provide easy access to global data. For visual observations, most of these objectives were met from the time of IMO’s foundation in 1988 onwards. Thanks to the updated Visual Meteor Data Base, all visual data are now within easy reach of anyone. This rich data set is screaming out to be exploited more heavily. In order to share our experts’ knowledge on the analysis of visual meteor data, IMO organizes a workshop on visual observations one day prior to the IMC 2018 in Slovakia.

Since many years, the field of video meteor observations has reached a diverse and mature state, with several networks and systems providing complementary information about meteors. The IMO Video Meteor Network comprises over 75 cameras, and interesting monthly analyses of meteor activity are published in WGN. All its data can be found in the IMO Video Meteor Database, and are exported to the EDMOND database regularly. During the IMC 2017, Video Commission Director Sirko Molau, Mike Hankey, Vladimir Nikoli´c and his colleagues from Petnica Science Center joined forces to start working on a near real time video flux viewer.

Radio observations of meteors are an inherently indirect and rather complicated way of studying meteors. Though no standard data format is currently employed for radio observations and there is no IMO database for radio observations, the Radio Meteor Observing Bulletin (RMOB) has gathered radio data worldwide since 1993. At present, no single standardized reduction method for radio data is in use, but promising advances have been made in the past years, for example by Ogawa and Steyaert [1] and the BRAMS team [2]. I expect this field to grow to a more mature state in the years to come.

The field of spectroscopic meteor observations has reached the point where experts need to sit together and discuss a standard methodology and data format. This is exactly the purpose of IMO’s Spectroscopic Workshop which will take place one day prior to the IMC 2018.

Though few people are currently employing infrasound to observe fireballs, I expect this field will be growing in the next years. IMO strives to distribute information on this exciting technique and encourages meteor workers to start infrasound observations.

Ever more fireballs

One of the most striking trends in the last few years, is the rise in numbers of reported and filmed fireballs, and even of recovered meteorites. Since IMO’s online fireball form was launched in 2015, 15 809 fireball reports and 4 964 events were reported through the IMO fireball form (apart from the large American Meteor Society contribution, where fireball report collection started already in 2006). The 2017 statistics are compared to those of 2016 in Tables 1 and 2. We clearly see that IMO’s contribution to the fireball form statistics is rising. A new feature for the fireball form was introduced in 2017: the ability to add images, videos, and other information to a fireball report. This allows us to combine all fireball information in one place, enhancing the chances for swift recovery of meteorites.

Table 1: Number of fireball reports in 2016 and 2017 (total number of reports, number of reports entered via IMO form or customized form (non-AMS), and percentage of reports entered via IMO form or customized form).

Year Number of reports Number of IMO reports IMO contribution (%)
2016 26,622 3,635 14%
2017 28,219 8,096 24%

Table 2: Number of fireball events in 2016 and 2017 (total number of events, number of events entered via IMO form or customized form (non-AMS), and percentage of events entered via IMO form or customized form).

Year Number of events Number of IMO events IMO contribution (%)
2016 5,365 1,512 28%
2017 5,446 1,844 34%

Do you remember the following striking events of 2017?

  • L6 ordinary chondrite (530 g) recovered in Broek in Waterland, the Nether- lands, after bright fireball at 16h09m UT on January 11.
  • Several meteorite fragments recovered (largest one: 1 kg) in Ait Ouabelli, Southeastern Morocco, after bright fireball at 22h10m UT on July 12.
  • Bright fireball over Northern US and British Columbia at 04h53mUT on July 30, reported by 888 people.
  • Bright fireball over The Netherlands at 19h01m UT on September 21, reported by 479 witnesses. Magnitude −10, duration 5.3 seconds, 16◦ above horizon, speed 31 km/s, light path ended offshore. This meteoroid was a Northern delta-Piscid, hence a nucleus fragment of 2P/Encke.
  • Huge fireball over Yunnan province, China at 12h07m05s UT on October 4. According to CNEOS/NASA (Center for Near Earth Objects Studies), this was the 4th most energetic atmospheric entry of the year, and the most energetic one over China since December 15, 2000! Probably a small asteroid (a few meters large) entering at 15 km/s.
  • Bright fireball over Germany at 16h48m UT on November 14 is most reported fireball event from Europe since launch of IMO fireball form (2 045 reports from 7 different versions of the fireball form).
  • Very bright fireball over Northern Finland at 16h40m UT on November 16, estimated magnitude -20, the meteor blast ws felt by many people.

Several very performant fireball and video meteor networks are already in place, and more are yet to come. For instance, Mike Hankey plans to cover the US with a new network of ∼350 cameras (1 % ready). I am convinced that close collaboration between all those networks and with IMO’s fireball form will further advance the already impressive quantity and quality of fireball data, as well as meteorite recoveries. IMO will do whatever it can to support this development.

Spreading the word

Did we address all of IMO’s activities here? No, at least one aspect still needs to be mentioned: IMO aims to (help people) spread the word that meteors are awesome! IMO’s website, Facebook, and Twitter channels are great for introducing the wonderful world of meteors to ever more people around the globe. And they are being used as well. In 2017, IMO’s Facebook account had 7 700 video views, which is 1 201% as compared to 2016. The most shared Facebook post (about the August 5 fireball over Seattle) reached 66 068 people.

Thank you!

Following the 2017 IMO Council elections, Marc Gyssens, Detlef Koschny, Robert Lunsford, Sirko Molau, Jean-Louis Rault, and Ju¨rgen Rendtel were re-elected as Council members (for 2018–2021), and I was re-elected as President. I would like to thank all voters for their support. As President, together with the other Council members, I will continue my dedication to monitor and foster our organization’s health for many years to come.

Geert Barentsen did not renew his term in the IMO Council. Geert has been
Council member since 2010, has been IMO webmaster and was the main person behind the Virtual Meteor Observatory and the online ZHR plots in the previous version of the IMC website, as well as the MetRec FluxViewer, which serves as prototype for the real time video flux viewer currently under construction. We will miss Geert’s original ideas, thorough and careful evaluation of proposals and situations, and passionate involvement in our organization. In name of the IMO Council, I thank Geert for all the great work he has done for IMO.

In the past months, the function of Press Officer has been abolished as it turned out that press releases in case of a major fireball were typically drafted by national groups, with help from the IMO news editors, within hours of the event. Adapting to this reality, I have instead established a list of national Points of Contact in many countries that will communicate quickly with the IMO news editors in case of a major event in their country. In name of the Council, I thank Megan Argo for the good work that she has performed as Press Officer.

Needless to say, IMO’s achievements are only possible through the dedication of many volunteers, such as WGN’s Editor-in-Chief Javor Kac, our webmaster Karl Antier, and Mike Hankey and Vincent Perlerin who developed and maintain the IMO website and fireball form. Essential tasks are performed by the IMO Council members and Commission Directors and many more volunteers. Without mentioning them all in detail, I want to thank them all for their part in running the International Meteor Organization!

Figure 1: IMO is at its best when its officers sense what is hanging in the air, catalyze promising evolutions, and help make things happen.

How would you define IMO’s mission?

IMO is your organization, it is there to support your meteor activities. Do you support IMO’s mission as described above? Or do you have different or extra ideas? Your opinion is much appreciated, and I invite you to comment on this Janus article and provide your own suggestions, either as a letter to WGN or as an online reaction to the website Janus article. Let your voice be heard!

Call for action

I invite you all to join the effort and make things happen in 2018! Perform those observations, submit those data, use that database and analyze that shower return, write that paper, share your work, your passion about meteors, the beauty of it all through internet. Share and like that meteor post, put IMO’s fireball form on your website, and attend that International Meteor Conference to take an overwhelming meteor bath. The opportunities abound! IMO is there for you. Share your thoughts, experiences and wishes and help us make it even better.


[1] H. Ogawa, C. Steyaert, “Major and Daytime Meteor Showers using Global Radio Meteor Observations covering the period 2001-2016”, WGN 45:5 (2017), pp. 98–106.

[2] C. Verbeeck, H. Lamy, S. Calders, C. T´etard, A. Mart´ınez Picar, “Overview of major shower observations 2016–2017 by the BRAMS network”. In Proceedings of the International Meteor Conference 2017, Petnica, Serbia, September 21–24 (2018, in press).

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