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Desert Fireballs

An Operational Desert Fireball Network camera station

An Operational Desert Fireball Network camera station on the Nullarbor, with satellite link and solar panel power source. Photo courtesy Geoff Deacon

By Alex Bevan, Philip Bland & Pavel Spurný

An intelligent camera system has been set up to track and recover meteorites in the Nullarbor.

Alex Bevan is Head of Earth & Planetary Sciences at the Western Australian Museum. Phil Bland is a Principal Research Fellow in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London. Pavel Spurný is Head of the Department of Interplanetary Matter at the Astronomical Institute of the Academy of Sciences in the Czech Republic.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

The stuff from which many meteorites are made is 4560 million years old, and has remained virtually unaltered since its formation. Mainly representing debris left over after the planets were constructed, meteorites carry a unique record of the earliest events during the birth of the Solar System.

Meteorites can be fragments of rock, metal and mixtures of rock and metal mostly broken from asteroids in solar orbits between Mars and Jupiter. These broad groupings, however, belie the diversity of rocks that fall to Earth and are recovered.

Our best estimate is that the world’s meteorite collections contain samples from at least 135 different asteroids, each having had an independent history since the formation of the Sun and its system of orbiting planets. A small army of planetary scientists in universities and museums around the world are currently involved in deciphering the cryptic clues presented by meteorites to understand the chemical and physical processes that led to the construction of the Solar System.

Of the more than 50,000 meteorites in collections around the world, the vast majority are chance finds. Over the past 300 years or so, only about 1100 worldwide have actually been seen falling before being quickly recovered. Of these, the phenomena associated with the fall of only 12 have been photographed, enabling the orbits of the objects that...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.