London: Astronomers have discovered a specific piece of meteorite on Nullabor Plain, after tracking it from orbit, a rare finding which they claim is a major breakthrough for planetary science.
An international team, led by Phil Bland of Imperial College London, has spotted not only a tiny meteorite on the Nullarbor Plain, but also its orbit and the asteroid it came from, using cameras which capture fireballs streaking across the night sky and mathematics, the `Science` journal reported.
The astronomers deployed three "all sky cameras" on the Nullarbor Plain to form a fireball camera network. The cameras take a single time lapse picture of the sky throughout the entire night to record any fireballs over the Plain.
Combined with some clever mathematics, they were then able to calculate the original orbit of the object and where to search for the meteorite on the ground.
And, the ability to track meteorites back to their asteroid home also means it is an incredibly cheap way of sampling that asteroid, rather than conducting an expensive space mission, the astronomers said.