A meteorite fragment believed to be older than Earth itself has been discovered in Australia, and it almost washed away before scientists had a chance to get to it. The recovery operation involved a network of 32 remote camera observatories, a mass of complicated geographical calculations, an aerial spotter, a remotely operated drone, two human searchers, and a whole lot of luck.
By David Nield|Science Alert
It all began on 27 November 2015, when the fragment was hurtled down to Earth’s surface from space. Locals in the William Creek and Marree areas of South Australia witnessed its descent, and it was also spotted by the Desert Fireball Network (DFN) – a series of linked digital cameras that monitor the skies above the outback and look for traces of incoming meteorites. Once the rock had been spotted, the race was on to find it.
After some image analysis, triangulation, and other calculations, the search began in earnest around the Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre area – the lowest natural point in Australia – on December 29. An unmanned drone and a manned light aircraft were used to guide DFN team members, Phil Bland and Robert Howie from Curtin University, to the correct spot, with the assistance of a local search party.