Meteor scatter

Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by John Berry

Typically it’s referred to as meteor burst communications, referencing the notion that the path between transmitter and receiver via a meteor trail is available for a short while – allowing a burst of energy through.

Radio amateurs typically refer to this as propagation via meteor scatter – though whether it’s scatter, reflection or refraction is a moot point.

Meteor scatter path loss

Whether or not a path from transmitter to receiver via a meteor trail is usable depends on the path loss. If the path loss is too great, the received signal will be below the receiver threshold and no decode will be possible. The path loss depends of course on the characteristics of the meteor. There are two approaches to calculating path loss – here I use the billboard method.

Meteor occurrence

Meteor occurrence causes short-lived ionisation. Each one burns up as it descends through the Earth’s atmosphere. Of central significance is the additional ionisation as meteors descend through the E Region. Meteor scatter communications has parallels with other E Region propagation modes, such as sporadic E communications. Read more about how meteors cause ionisation.

Meteor trails

Meteor trails exist for a short time – the time it takes for the meteor transit through the E Region from about 120km to about 90km above the Earth’s surface. Meteors create trails of ionised material – plasma.  Trails are most effective in reflecting, refracting, or scattering radio waves when in line with the transit. Read more about the nature of trails.

Meteor scatter bibliography

Click here for more reading and the source of many concepts discussed here.

To come:

Burst duration, rate and form

Path budget

Antennas and antenna pointing

Optimum frequency of operation

Probability and reliability