Rare meteorite found by ‘fireball’ observatory

This all-sky image was taken by the Desert Fireball Network in Western Australia with a fish-eye lens. The film is exposed for most of the night, so stars trace long curves; the white streak diagonally across them is a fireball (Image: Desert Fireball Network, funding from STFC and the EU)

A rare meteorite that may have been born in Earth’s neighbourhood has been found using a new ‘fireball’ observatory in Australia.

Scientists can learn how the solar system formed by studying meteorites that originated in different places within it. The trouble is, they don’t know where the vast majority of meteorites actually came from.

“Trying to interpret what happened in the early solar system without knowing where meteorites are from is like trying to interpret the geology of Britain from random rocks dumped in your back yard,” says Phil Bland at Imperial College London.

To remedy that, Bland’s team set up the Desert Fireball Network in Western Australia’s Nullarbor Desert in 2006. This trial network, currently with four robotic cameras spread over roughly 250,000 square kilometres, exposes photographic film to clear skies throughout the night.

If the cameras record a bright meteor, or fireball, as a rock falls through Earth’s atmosphere, scientists can calculate its trajectory by triangulation, estimate the rock’s likely landing site, then look for it.

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Following the network’s first observation of a fireball on 20 July 2007, search parties found three fragments of the resulting meteorite, named Bunburra Rockhole, in 2008 and 2009.

The meteorite is made of basalt….

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