A team of planetary geologists in Westen Australia are using latest the camera technology in the hunt for meteorites that fall to earth.
The scientists are from Curtin University and the team leader is Phil Bland. The rather dramatic name for the project in the outback is Desert Fireball Network, but then they regard the pieces of rock that they find as being of a very dramatic nature.
“This type of meteorite is about 4.5 billion years-old,” said Phil, holding up a fragment of asteroid. “So that’s older than the Earth. It’s the oldest rock you’ll ever hold in your hand. It came to us from beyond the orbit of Mars, so in between Mars and Jupiter.
The team uses a network of 32 cameras across Western and South Australia to trace pieces of asteroids that break off and fall to earth, then they go and find them.
“The cameras send us an email to say ‘okay I’ve seen something’, and we can check the others in the area to see if they have done that. But you get a lot in the nighttime. So, it was just a few days later that we looked at all our data and we realised actually we have a really big one.”
It’s believed some of the meteorites the team is finding could date back to the very beginning of the solar system because of their ‘chondrite’ or stone-like consistency. Phil Bland believes the discoveries they are making represent a bargain in space research:
“Space agencies like NASA, JAXA the Japanese one, will spend a billion dollars trying to get to an asteroid and bring a sample back. Potentially we can do it for an awful a lot less than that.”
For Bland and his team there’s a lot more excitement to come. They believe they’ve identified a further ten meteor crash sites.