Just a while before the end of 2015, something extraordinary happened. A primordial meteorite that fell to Earth last November has been recovered by geologists in Australia. This meteorite fell to Earth on November 27, 2015, and its fall was witnessed by residents in the William Creek and Marree areas, Australia. According to scientists, this 1.7-kg (3.7-lb) chondrite or stony meteorite is estimated to be more than 4.5 billion years old, which means that it dates back to the time of the early formation of the Solar System. As a result, it is believed to be older than the Earth.

The meteorite’s descent was also tracked by 32 remote camera observatories stationed across the Australian outback, called the Desert Fireball Network. Its members used the latest technology in order to perform image analysis, triangulation and other calculations, which helped them spot where the meteorite had fallen. The location was in the Australian outback, close to Lake Eyre. The timing of its discovery was crucial. If the researchers had arrived a few days later, the rock would have been wiped away by heavy rains.

After searching for three days using an aerial spotter, a remotely operated drone, two searchers on the surface of the lake as well as guidance around the area by the locals, they found it on December 29, 2015, about 3.7 miles (6 km) away from the lake. Partially buried in a 16-inch hole (42 cm), it was embedded in thick salt lake mud and covered by soft wet mud that accumulated on the meteorite after its impact.

Professor Phil Bland from Curtin University, who is supported by an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship, said that this discovery held added significance for the Desert Fireball Network team. “This meteorite is of special significance as the camera observations used to calculate the fall positions have also enabled the solar system orbit of the meteorite to be calculated, giving important contextual information for future study. It demonstrates beyond doubt that this giant machine that we’ve built really works”.

According to researchers, who are about to start a thorough study of the rock, the meteorite came from a certain point between Mars and Jupiter. Bland’s colleague, Jonathan Paxman, has stated: “The fact we have managed to retrieve the meteorite at all is remarkable. Our people worked around the clock to reduce the data, enabling rapid recovery of something that would have been lost if we’d gotten there any later”.

It is worth mentioning the valuable help of the indigenous population, the Arabana people, who contributed to tracking the meteorite. Their knowledge of the area combined with the state-of-the-art scientific equipment led to the most successful results. The scientific community is now anticipating for the outcome of this research, as studying this meteorite will provide scientists with important information about the formation of our solar system.

Image credit: Curtin University, Desert Fireball Network