vismeteor was developed to provide a comprehensive tool for analyzing visually observed meteors. It takes into account human perception of different meteor magnitudes through perception probabilities. Therefore, this package provides methods that incorporate these perception probabilities in the evaluation of meteor magnitudes.

Perception probabilities are crucial in analyzing the observed magnitude distributions, leading to specific magnitude distributions unique to visual meteor observations. A popular distribution is the Visual Geometric Magnitude Distribution. This is a standard geometric distribution adjusted by multiplying its densities with the perception probabilities. The result is a distribution whose sole parameter is the Population Index r. This package enables users to work with this specially adjusted distribution.

Additionally, this package offers tools to facilitate the evaluation, recognizing that visual meteor observations typically report only total counts over a specified period, rather than individual meteor events.

For visual observations of meteor magnitudes, the observed counts can be specified in fractional values (half meteors). This package includes a function for unbiased rounding of these fractional values to use standard tools in R that only allow integer values.

Perception probabilities

Meteors appear randomly distributed across the sky. The perception of an observer can vary significantly for each meteor, influenced largely by the region of the sky where the meteor appears. Depending on its position, a meteor might be perceived or missed entirely, leading to the concept of perception probabilities.

Perception probabilities quantify the likelihood of an observer detecting a meteor. They provide a statistical measure reflecting the chance of seeing or not seeing a meteor under various conditions. In statistical modeling of visual observations, these probabilities are commonly expressed in relation to the difference between the meteor’s magnitude and the limiting magnitude of the observation.

This package includes the function vmperception() to return perception probabilities for visual meteor magnitudes. For advanced analytical purposes, vmperception.l() is provided to return the Laplace-transformed perception probabilities.

Custom perception probability functions can be passed to most functions of this package. This allows users to tailor the behavior of the functions to their specific needs and conduct their own studies on the appearance of observable meteor magnitudes. This flexibility is particularly valuable for researchers wishing to incorporate their own empirical data or models into the analysis.

See ?vmperception and ?vmperception.l for more information.

Geometric magnitude distribution

In visual meteor observation, it is common to estimate meteor magnitudes in integer values. Hence, the geometric magnitude distribution is discrete and has the density: \[ {\displaystyle P[X = x] \sim f(x) \, \mathrm r^{-x}} \,\mathrm{,} \] where \(x \ge -0.5\) represents the difference between the limiting magnitude and the meteor magnitude, and \(f(x)\) is the perception probability function. This distribution is a product of the perception probabilities with the actual geometric distribution of the meteor magnitudes. Therefore, the parameter \(p\) of the geometric distribution is \(p=1−1/r\).

The advantage of this model is its simplicity. When the number of observed meteors is low, it can often be shown that the distribution of meteor magnitudes corresponds to this model.

m <- seq(6, -4, -1)
limmag <- 6.5
r <- 2.0
p <- vismeteor::dvmgeom(m, limmag, r)
    names.arg = m,
    main = paste0('Density (r = ', r, ', limmag = ', limmag, ')'),
    col = "blue",
    xlab = 'm',
    ylab = 'p',
    border = "blue",
    space = 0.5
axis(side = 2, at = pretty(p))

See ?vmgeom for more information.

Ideal magnitude distribution

The ideal magnitude distribution is an alternative model to the geometric magnitude distribution. It more accurately reflects the finiteness of meteor magnitudes across the entire magnitude spectrum, drawing upon the model of an ideal gas from theoretical physics as a conceptual analogy.

This model is particularly useful when, compared to the geometric distribution, fewer faint meteor magnitudes have been observed.

The density of an ideal magnitude distribution is

\[ {\displaystyle \frac{\mathrm{d}p}{\mathrm{d}m} = \frac{3}{2} \, \log(r) \sqrt{\frac{r^{3 \, \psi + 2 \, m}}{(r^\psi + r^m)^5}}} \] where \(m\) is the meteor magnitude, \(r = 10^{0.4} \approx 2.51189 \dots\) is a constant and \(\psi\) is the only parameter of this magnitude distribution.

m <- seq(6, -4, -1)
psi <- 5.0
limmag <- 6.5
p <- vismeteor::dvmideal(m, limmag, psi)
    names.arg = m,
    main = paste0('Density (psi = ', psi, ', limmag = ', limmag, ')'),
    col = "blue",
    xlab = 'm',
    ylab = 'p',
    border = "blue",
    space = 0.5
axis(side = 2, at = pretty(p))

See ?mideal and ?vmideal for more information.

Fractional Counting

In the statistical analysis of visual meteor observations, a method known as “count data” in categorical time series is used. Observers record the number of meteors in each category over specific time intervals.

In visual meteor observation, observers record numerical meteor magnitudes and sum them, uniquely allowing for “half” counts when indecisive between two values. This fractional counting reflects measurement uncertainty, splitting counts between adjacent magnitude categories.

While fractional counting accommodates measurement uncertainty with “half” counts, some tools cannot process these fractional values and require integer rounding. The function vmtable() addresses this by rounding the magnitudes in a contingency table to whole numbers. It ensures that the rounding process only alters the marginal totals when necessary, preserving the overall count integrity. This means both the grand total and the intermediate sums of meteors observed remain consistent, ensuring accurate and usable data for subsequent analysis.


mt <- as.table(matrix(
        0.0, 0.0, 2.5, 0.5, 0.0, 1.0,
        0.0, 1.5, 2.0, 0.5, 0.0, 0.0,
        1.0, 0.0, 0.0, 3.0, 2.5, 0.5
    ), nrow = 3, ncol = 6, byrow = TRUE
colnames(mt) <- seq(6)
rownames(mt) <- c('A', 'B', 'C')
margin.table(mt, 1)
#> A B C 
#> 4 4 7
margin.table(mt, 2)
#>   1   2   3   4   5   6 
#> 1.0 1.5 4.5 4.0 2.5 1.5

# contingency table with integer values
( <- vmtable(mt))
#>   1 2 3 4 5 6
#> A 0 0 3 0 0 1
#> B 0 2 1 1 0 0
#> C 1 0 0 3 3 0
margin.table(, 1)
#> A B C 
#> 4 4 7
margin.table(, 2)
#> 1 2 3 4 5 6 
#> 1 2 4 4 3 1

See ?vmtable for more information.

Quantile Analysis with Minimum Meteor Count

The function freq.quantile() is tailored for analyzing time series data in visual meteor observation, where the count of meteors is recorded over specific time intervals.

Unlike traditional methods that sort quantiles based on time and percent, which often result in some quantiles having fewer meteors than desired, freq.quantile() constructs quantiles with a focus on ensuring a minimum number of meteors in each quantile.

This method addresses the challenge of varying meteor counts in each interval, including those with zero meteors. By utilizing freq.quantile(), users can effectively divide the time series into quantiles that are both time-based and density-based, enhancing the understanding of meteor occurrence and distribution over the observed period while ensuring each quantile meets the minimum count criterion.

This approach provides a more nuanced and reliable analysis, especially vital when dealing with the inherent variability in meteor observations.

The following example represents a time-ordered list of observed meteor counts. The objective is to group these counts into quantiles while maintaining their chronological order, ensuring that each quantile contains at least 10 meteors.

freq <- c(1,8,3,3,4,9,5,0,0,2,7,8,2,6,4)
f <- freq.quantile(freq, 10)
#>  [1] 1 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 3 3 3 4 4 5 5
#> Levels: 1 < 2 < 3 < 4 < 5
print(tapply(freq, f, sum))
#>  1  2  3  4  5 
#> 12 16 14 10 10

See ?freq.quantile for more information.

Interfacing VMDB Data with load_vmdb()

The load_vmdb() function is designed to interface with the imo-vmdb application, processing data specifically exported from the Visual Meteor Database (VMDB) in CSV format. After these CSV exports are verified and validated with the imo-vmdb application, they are stored in a relational database, which enhances the accessibility and usability of the data compared to its original CSV format. This storage method establishes relationships between data records and enriches them with additional information derived from the original data records.

Utilizing load_vmdb(), users can efficiently query and retrieve specific datasets relevant to their meteor observation analysis. This streamlined access facilitates more comprehensive and targeted research.

Within this package, PER_2015_rates and PER_2015_magn are provided as example data sets. They are included for testing and training purposes, allowing users to understand and utilize the full functionality of the entire package.

See ?load_vmdb, ?PER_2015_rates and ?PER_2015_magn for more information.