A summary of the activity of the CAMS BeNeLux network during the year 2018 is presented. The year 2018 offered unusual good weather for astronomical observations with clear nights during most major shower events. The network recorded 272248 meteors of which 142507 proved multiple station, or 52%. 49627 orbits could be computed during 330 different nights which corresponds to 90% of all 365 nights in 2018. The exceptional weather resulted in record numbers of orbits for 9 months of 2018.


1 Introduction

CAMS BeNeLux depends 100% on volunteers, amateur astronomers who dedicate some of their free time to operate cameras, taking care of the daily task to confirm real meteors, deleting false detections and to report the meteor data to the CAMS network coordinator. The network functions without any financial subsides which means that participants purchase the required equipment with their own money, something that goes with a much stronger motivation than what often happens at observatories where expensive equipment bought with public money remains unused because of a rather poor personal commitment. The CAMS BeNeLux project is the most successful amateur project ever for the BeNeLux region based on a truly highly efficient international team work.

The CAMS BeNeLux network results are submitted to the Global CAMS project scientist Dr. P. Jenniskens at the Seti Institute. Results are published in refereed papers, presented at scientific conferences and results are online available (http://www.cams.seti.org). The CAMS software is made available to all participating networks and technical support is provided by Steve Rau to implement the CAMS software and to configure Auto-Cams. The CAMS software developer, Pete Gural, keeps in touch and provides feedback to the networks involved to adapt the software for new developments.


2 CAMS BeNeLux 2018 statistics

The CAMS BeNeLux network expanded with about 50% in number of cameras since the summer of 2017. Setting up remote stations in Burlage, Grapfontaine, Terschelling and Texel allowed to expand the size of the network significantly. More stations switched to use Auto-Cams to keep the cameras as often as possible operational and the directions of the individual cameras were optimized to have an optimal common volume in the meteor rich layers of the atmosphere. 2018 would be the first year that the CAMS BeNeLux network could function at full strength. Never before the network had more cameras available than at the start of 2018, in theory 92 operational cameras could function from 22 different stations.

The large number of cameras also meant greater risks for malfunctioning equipment. The EzCap dongles proved to be rather unsuitable for intensive use like with Auto-Cams and disabled many cameras for some time until the dongle could be replaced. Other sources of malfunctioning were due to the unreliability of Windows as operating system, especially Windows 10 which is probably the worst Windows version for using CAMS. Finally, quite a bit of data could not be processed due to mistakes in the data communicated: failing clock synchronization, incorrect calibration file reporting, problematic numbers of dropped frames that cause sectored meteors, etc. To avoid such unfortunate loss of data, it is recommended to check daily if the time synchronization is okay, to check if the calibration files are valid for the night, to check that all required files are sent correctly.


Table 1 – Total numbers of nights (D) with orbits, number of orbits, number of camera stations (S), maximum of cameras available (Mx), minimum of cameras available (Mi), average number of cameras (Mm), total number of meteors and percentage of multiple station meteors.

M D Orbits S Mx Mi Mm Meteors %
Jan 25 1878 22 86 53 72.1 11986 41%
Feb 26 4147 22 91 48 81.7 23439 55%
Mar 25 1280 22 91 53 73.5 9324 36%
Apr 27 1929 21 83 59 73.3 11328 49%
May 31 2426 21 84 64 76.6 13630 54%
Jun 28 1425 21 78 52 64.9 8218 47%
Jul 30 4098 19 72 59 67.7 21446 55%
Aug 30 5403 19 72 56 62.4 27917 55%
Sep 28 5606 20 80 57 65.4 29160 54%
Oct 29 9611 21 82 52 73 51332 55%
Nov 28 6916 21 85 59 75.3 38556 53%
Dec 23 4908 21 78 52 69.8 25912 51%
330 49627 272248 52%


The network could run at its full capacity during the first months of 2018 apart from some minor technical problems with some cameras. In March 2018 CAMS station Oostkapelle, a cornerstone with 8 cameras in the network, was shut down for 6 months for renovation work. In June 2018 a disaster at CAMS station Ooltgenplaat destroyed the equipment at the observatory of Piet Neels, a great personal loss for Piet but also a great loss for the network. Ooltgenplaat is a cornerstone in the same part of the network as Oostkapelle. With both stations missing, many other camera fields at other stations suddenly got much less coverage. Especially all cameras pointed above the western and southern part of the network got badly affected. With a few cameras being unavailable elsewhere, the network dropped at about 80% of the capacity of end 2017. This is visible in Figure 1, as a drop in the maximum (green line) and the average number (red line) of cameras available each month. The exceptional favorable weather and the use of Auto-Cams at most stations resulted in record numbers of orbits although up to 20% of all cameras weren’t available.

Figure 1 – Cams BeNeLux performance at a glimpse. The blue bars represent the number of nights with orbits for each month. The black line is the number of operational Cams stations, the green line the maximum number of operational cameras, the red line the average number of operational cameras and the yellow line the minimum number of operational cameras.


January 2018 started with mediocre weather circumstances, but February offered an exceptional number of clear nights. Some complete clear nights in February allowed to collect more than 300 orbits in a single night. Such high numbers of orbits show how rich meteor activity is this time of the year although no major showers are active.

Weather deteriorated in March but still a record number of orbits were collected this month. A major weather improvement happened in April, just in time for the coverage of the Lyrids. Also, the Eta Aquariids benefitted many clear nights. Although the weather remained dry and warm, a lot of clouds occurred at night from about 10 May until late June. A period with exceptionally many clear nights characterized the period from end of June until just before the Perseids. The Perseid maximum night was ruined by bad weather with rather poor circumstances during much of August. September brought many clear nights, some nights allowed to collect over 400 orbits a night. Stable good weather remained for most of October with 1391 orbits collected during the 2018 Draconids outburst 8 on 9 October. Several October nights had over 500 orbits per night. October ended as the best month for CAMS ever with 9611 orbits.

The long period with clear nights continued through much of November. Some November nights allowed to collect more than 700 orbits in a single night. After the Leonids weather turned back into a more normal pattern for our climate with a lot of clouds and rain. Most of December suffered of exceptional bad weather, except for a lucky coincidence with the best nights of December during the rich Geminid activity, 12–13 December alone was good for as many as 1396 orbits. Apart from the lucky Geminid nights, December was the worst month weather-wise for CAMS. Figure 2 shows the monthly scores in numbers of orbits.

Only 6 new cameras were added during 2018 including 2 at a strategic position in Nancy, France, by Tioga Gulon, an ideal location to give large coverage over the south eastern part of the CAMS network. Marco van der Weide also joined the network at Hengelo with an extra camera.


Figure 2 – The total number of orbits collected per month. October 2018 has the record with 9611 orbits in a single month.


3 2018 compared to previous years

Figure 3 shows the cumulated number of orbits. With 49627 orbits a record number of orbits were added to the collection of CAMS BeNeLux, bringing the total score at 145715 orbits. The total numbers of orbits are far higher than the most optimistic estimates anybody had expected in the past. The good result for 2018 is mainly due to the overall exceptional number of clear nights this year, combined with the use of Auto-CAMS and the still large number of operational cameras, although up to 20% of the equipment was unavailable during much of 2018.

Figure 3 – The evolution of the number of orbits collected by the CAMS BeNeLux network.


Comparing 2018 with previous years the highest average number of nights/month with orbits, 27.5, was better than ever before. 330 of the 365 nights of 2018 allowed to collect orbits, only 10% of all nights had zero orbits. The total number of orbits obtained in 2018 is far above what normally can be expected for the network with its current capacity. The success is mainly a result of exceptional good weather. Some statistics are shown in Table 2 and in Figure 4. Auto-Cams was introduced in November 2015.


Table 2 – Total numbers per year: average number of nights with orbits per month (Dm), orbits, average number of cameras per month (Cm), maximum number of operational cameras, number of operational stations and total number of nights with orbits.

Year Dm Orbits Cm Cameras Stations Nights
2012 10.1 1079 2.6 8 6 101
2013 16.5 5684 9.5 26 13 198
2014 22.4 11288 20.6 37 14 269
2015 24.5 17259 30.1 49 15 294
2016 25.8 25187 40.3 58 21 309
2017 25.6 35591 57.2 86 22 307
2018 27.5 49627 71.3 91 22 330
145715 1478


Figure 4 – The performance of the CAMS BeNeLux network from year to year. The blue bars represent the average number of nights per month that produced orbits. The black line is the number of Cams stations, the green line the maximum number of cameras available and the red line the average number of cameras available.


Figure 5 – Day-by-day tally of the cumulated number of orbits per day collected by CAMS-BeNeLux. Top: the overview up to 31 December 2017, bottom: the situation on 31 December 2018.


At the start of the CAMS project, almost 10 years ago, the purpose of the project was to collect at least a hundred orbits for each calendar date to detect unknown minor showers caused by weak dust trails. This initial target proved to be too modest as meanwhile the BeNeLux Cams network alone almost accomplished this purpose. CAMS proved much more successful than ever expected and meanwhile as many as over 1000 orbits are available for most of each degree in solar longitude for the global CAMS project. CAMS BeNeLux represents ~20% of all CAMS orbits.


Figure 6 – CAMS BeNeLux within the global CAMS project compared to the other major video networks.



4 CAMS BeNeLux in the world

CAMS is a global project in which different networks around the world participate all using the same CAMS software. The 16th century emperor Charles V claimed that the Sun never set in his empire, the opposite is true for CAMS. The Sun never rises as there is always some network with nighttime allowing to collect video meteor orbits 24/24 if weather permits. Altogether the CAMS networks collected about 186500 orbits in 2018 with the following numbers of orbits for the different networks (raw data):

  • CAMS Arkansas 2595
  • CAMS BeNeLux 49627
  • CAMS California 68329
  • EXOSS (Brazil) 400
  • CAMS Florida 5654
  • LOCAMS 45230
  • CAMS New Zealand 3201
  • CAMS Northern California 818
  • UACN 10583
  • Total ~186500

CAMS BeNeLux made its best contribution ever. Since the start of the CAMS project more than 765000 video meteor orbits have been collected of which 145715 orbits by CAMS BeNeLux. This is currently the largest collection of optical orbits and the project is expected to be continued for years with more networks involved than previous years.


5 Future plans

Figure 7 – Location of all the CAMS BeNeLux stations and cameras as until end 2018.


Figure 7 displays the positions of all CAMS stations of CAMS BeNeLux status end 2018, including few currently inactive stations. To guard the atmosphere over the entire region covering the meteor rich layer between 80 and 120 km at least 100 cameras with 30° x 22° FoV optics are required distributed over the different stations. The unavailability of some cameras for different reasons justifies some overcapacity to compensate temporarily inactive stations and cameras.

In December 2018 tests were started with RPi meteor cameras designed for the Global Meteor Network. The output from this system can be used for CAMS. In principle these cameras can provide coverage for CAMS if installed within 200 km from the CAMS BeNeLux region.



Many thanks to all participants in the CAMS BeNeLux network for their dedicated efforts. Thanks to Martin Breukers and Carl Johannink for providing all the data on which this report is based. The CAMS BeNeLux team is operated by the following volunteers:

Hans Betlem (Leiden, CAMS 371, 372 and 373), Felix Bettonvil (Utrecht, CAMS 376 and 377) , Jean-Marie Biets (Wilderen, CAMS 380, 381 and 382), Martin Breukers (Hengelo, CAMS 320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327, 328 and 329), Bart Dessoy (Zoersel, CAMS 397, 398, 804, 805, 806 and 888), Franky Dubois (Langemark, CAMS 386), Jean-Paul Dumoulin / Christian Wanlin (Grapfontaine, CAMS 814 and 815), Luc Gobin (Mechelen, CAMS 390, 391, 807 and 808), Tioga Gulon (Nancy, France, CAMS 3900 and 3901), Robert Haas (Alphen aan de Rijn, CAMS 3160, 3161, 3162, 3163, 3164, 3165, 3166 and 3167), Robert Haas / Edwin van Dijk (Burlage, CAMS 801, 802, 821 and 822) , Robert Haas (Texel, CAMS 810, 811, 812 and 813), Klaas Jobse (Oostkapelle, CAMS 3030, 3031, 3032, 3033, 3034, 3035, 3036 and 3037), Carl Johannink (Gronau, CAMS 311, 312, 313, 314, 315, 316, 317 and 318), Hervé Lamy (Ukkel, CAMS 393; Dourbes, CAMS 395), Koen Miskotte (Ermelo, CAMS 351, 352, 353 and 354) , Piet Neels (Terschelling, CAMS 841, 842, 843 and 844), Piet Neels (Ooltgensplaat, CAMS 340, 341, 342, 343, 344 and 345, 349, 840), Tim Polfliet (Gent, CAMS 396), Steve Rau (Zillebeke, CAMS 3850 and 3852), Paul Roggemans (Mechelen, CAMS 383, 384, 388, 389, 399 and 809), Hans Schremmer (Niederkruechten, CAMS 803), Erwin van Ballegoij (CAMS 347 and 348) ) and Marco Van der Weide (CAMS 3110).