Lecture: Catch a Falling Star: Meteors, Clouds and Waves at the Edge of Space

Speaker: Professor N. J. Mitchell, Centre for Space, Atmospheric & Ocean Science, University of Bath

Entry Fee

Members: Free

Visitors: £5.00

Date and Time

19:30 -


Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, 16-18 Queen Square, Bath BA1 2HN

Lecture Description

Every day about 40 tonnes of extra-terrestrial material collides with the Earth. This material is mostly in the form of tiny particles originating from comets. At heights of about 100km, friction heats the particles so that they vaporise, giving rise to the streak of light seen from the ground as a meteor or ‘shooting star’. This meteor region of the atmosphere is the edge of space. The meteor region is notoriously difficult to investigate but hosts a wide range of poorly understood phenomena. Atmospheric tides and waves launched from below are thought to drive its circulation, coupling together different layers of the atmosphere. Smoke from meteors acts as condensation nuclei for ghostly, polar noctilucent clouds and the meteor region is also home of the giant lightning discharges known as sprites. Its great sensitivity has led to its being called the “miner’s canary” of climate change.

Professor Mitchell’s research involves using sophisticated radars to detect meteors in the atmosphere. The meteors are used as tracers of atmospheric motion and reveal the intricate dynamics of the meteor region. An array of radars at sites ranging from the Arctic to the Antarctic is being used to monitor and investigate this enigmatic port of the atmosphere. The lecture will outline the challenges posed and the techniques used in remote-sensing meteors and the meteor region. It will present some key recent results, and will look towards future problems.

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