Detecting meteors with 2m ssb gear

You can easily detect meteors with a 2m SSB rig (or an SDR) that will tune down to 143.049 MHz USB and ideally have a 2m beam. The French meteor radar station, GRAVES, which is near Dijon, is on that frequency – the beam heading from this area is 133 degrees. You should hear momentary pings when a meteor passes overhead and reflects the GRAVES signal down to earth. Due to the rotation of the earth meteors are moving faster and burn up quicker between midnight and midday. This means that signals are usually stronger during the morning but they can be heard at any time. 

If you have your rig connected to a computer you should also be able to see the pings on software with a waterfall display such as HRD & WSJT-X. Even better use the free Spectrum Lab software, which can show you a 3D plot. Pings should appear at around 1kHz. The longer the ping the larger the meteor and if the frequency shifts or changes in width it is the effect of Doppler due to the speed and direction of the meteor and any particles it might break up into.

A spectacular series of meteor pings from the October 2019 Orionid meteor shower captured with Spectrum Lab

The screenshot above shows a series of meteor pings captured using Spectrum Lab. The chart shows strength on the vertical axis, time from front to back on the left hand side and frequency from front to back on the right hand side. The main peak is very high and has a ridge to the front which suggests that there was one large particle that lasted much longer than the others. The other peaks are different meteors. The peak off to the right appears to be caused by bounce from a fast moving meteor which is doppler shifted up in frequency as the meteor moves towards us at very high speed.

Spectrum Lab has a steep learning curve but looks to have many other ham radio uses including QRSS slow Morse. It even includes a dual tone generator for testing amplifiers & rigs for intermodulation.

Don’t forget that WSJT-X contains several modes that are designed for meteor scatter QSOs. 6m is the best band for this application as pings are stronger and last longer than at 2m.

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