Thursday, June 24, 2021

Desert Fireball Network Scientists Find 2 Meteorites in 2 Weeks

Curtin University researchers have discovered two meteorites in a two-week period on the Nullarbor Plain — one freshly fallen and the other from November 2019. Both falls were captured by The Desert Fireball Network (DFN) team, which uses cameras across Australia to observe shooting stars and predict where meteorites will land. The team, which usually searches from March to October, was postponed due to COVID-19, but as restrictions lifted, it observed another meteorite fall just south of the Eyre Highway near Madura.

Curtin's Dr Hadrien Devillepoix pointing to the meteorite found near Madura. (Image: Curtin University)
Curtin’s Dr. Hadrien Devillepoix pointing to the meteorite found near Madura. (Image: Curtin University)

Astronomer Dr. Hadrien Devillepoix and planetary geologist Dr. Anthony Lagain originally went on a reconnaissance mission to assess the latest fall site near Madura, taking drone imagery of the area. Dr. Devillepoix said that as they were walking back to their car along the old telegraph track near Madura Cave, they spotted what appeared to be a real meteorite on the ground just in front of them, adding:

Dr. Devillepoix explained that although the rock was very close to the predicted fall position, the team was not expecting to find it that quickly in this bushy terrain, saying:

Dr. Devillepoix explained that not only do the fireball cameras allow the team to calculate where the meteorites land, they also allow it to backtrack where they came from and what orbit they were on before they hit Earth:

Two weeks later, Dr. Martin Towner, operations chief of the team, led the six people team to search the site of the November 2019 fall. This fall was northwest of Forrest airport in the middle of the Nullarbor. After just four hours of searching, they found the 300-gram meteorite that the DFN had seen come in on the night of November 18, 2019. This one came from a radically different orbit, pointing to the middle part of the main asteroid belt. The team is now working to uncover what secrets the two rocks hold.

John Curtin Distinguished Professor Phil Bland, the Director of the Space Science and Technology Centre, explained his team is able to learn more about meteorites on Earth by analyzing data collected from strategically placed camera observatories, known as the Desert Fireball Network (DFN):

Dr. Eleanor Sansom, project manager of the DFN, said that although these rapid successes make finding meteorites sound easy, this is an incredible achievement:

Provided by: Curtin University [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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Troy Oakes
Troy was born and raised in Australia and has always wanted to know why and how things work, which led him to his love for science. He is a professional photographer and enjoys taking pictures of Australia's beautiful landscapes. He is also a professional storm chaser where he currently lives in Hervey Bay, Australia.
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