SCIENTISTS have recovered a freshly fallen meteorite believed to be 4.56 billion years old from a farm north east of Perth, making it older than the Earth.
Members of Curtin University’s Desert Fireball Network team tracked the 1.15kg meteorite, which fell to earth near Morawa just after 8pm on Halloween, using tip from the public and their network of digital cameras set up in the outback.
The squashed brick-shaped meteorite was found within a week after it landed, thanks to swift reports to the Fireballs in the Sky citizen science app and the team’s rapid response.
DFN founder Phil Bland said the fireball was picked up by four cameras in Perenjori, Northam, Badgingarra and Hyden, which helped the team find where the meteorite hit the ground.
“Our team was able to track the fall line and calculate its landing spot to within 200 metres of where it was subsequently found,” Professor Bland said.
The meteorite is predicted to have been 50-100 times bigger than its current size before it fell through the atmosphere.
Martin Towner from the Department of Applied Geology described the rock as a pristine, unweathered, fresh sample.
Dr Towner said there was no visible impact on the ground where it was found. Prof Bland said of the 50,000 meteorites that have been discovered, the origins of only 20-30 are known.
“Meteorites tell us pretty much everything we want to know about the solar system … but unless we know where they came from, there’s a really big piece of that puzzle left,” he said.
Meteorites have decelerated to a free-fall velocity by the time they hit the earth, travelling at the same speed as a rock thrown from a tall building.
Under federal government law, the meteorite belongs to the state, and the trustees of the WA Museum will become the custodians.