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Meteorites search blog

Archive for the 'Cameras' Category

The search begins

Gretchen, Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

Heading into the Nullabor from Kalgoorlie, we ran out of paved road within about a half hour, but the road had a pretty good surface and surprisingly we could move at a pretty fast clip - until we popped a tyre.

Intrepid explorers, Caroline, Gretchen and Phil © Gretchen Benedix

Intrepid explorers, Phil, Martin, Caroline and Gretchen © Gretchen Benedix

No one other than Phil had experienced this while driving. When the tyre popped there was a slight pull, followed by a noise that sounded exactly like a 747 landing. We stopped and saw the very flat tyre. The hardest part was getting the spare off the roof, and the sandy ground didn’t help. But in a bit we were on our way again – until a tyre popped on the other car. In all it took about six hours to get to our first stop.

The next day, we headed off to camp further into the desert to begin our meteorite hunt, checking one of the cameras in the Desert Fireball Network on the way. The hardest thing when looking for meteorites is to get your eye acclimatised to the local rock types, so you can spot the meteorites – rocks that don’t fit in with the local rocks.

Our first meteorite, can you spot it? © Gretchen Benedix

Our first meteorite, can you spot it? © Gretchen Benedix

Caroline was the first to find a meteorite, within about 30m of the camp. We walked about another 2km before turning around, but didn’t find any more meteorites, only kektites (pieces of glass from impactors that hit the Earth and launch molten earth rock into space, where it can’t escape gravity and falls back down). We did find lots of ‘meteowrongs’ though, meaning we are recognising things that look a bit out of place but are the local rock!

The following morning was spent searching for meteorites systematically in a line. We went out about 1.5km before turning around and heading back to the cars. The whole thing took over two hours because we have to walk fairly slowly, but we did find several meteorites. Then, in the afternoon, we found more by going out in pairs and searching in a much more random pattern.

That night we had a fabulous dinner to celebrate Martin’s birthday. The fridges we’ve brought give us some opportunity to have fresh fruit and vegetables, and we had roast lamb, potatoes and onions. Delicious! The wind was blowing a gale and the clouds were gathering, which made eating the dinner interesting - we had five minutes to eat it while it was hot!

Fireballs and lightning

Caroline, Friday, September 29th, 2006

This dramatic image was taken by one of the cameras in the Desert Fireball Network that we’ll be visiting in the Nullabar. The white streak across the bottom of the picture is a meteorite fireball, shooting across the sky in the middle of an electrical storm. Less than ten of the 32,000 or so known meteorites have their falls recorded by camera or video.

Electrical storm and fireball captured on camera © Phil Bland

Electrical storm and fireball captured on camera © Phil Bland

As well as looking for meteorites, one of our most important tasks will be to check that the cameras are working correctly, and fix any problems that we find.

The summer of a meteorite curator

Caroline, Monday, September 18th, 2006

One of the aspects of my job that I really enjoy is that I get to travel quite a bit. This summer I’ve already been to Morocco, Zurich and Glasgow to attend meetings about meteorites.

Because I have been travelling so much I haven’t really had much chance to do as much curation and research as I would normally do. Saying that, after a big meeting I always receive a lot of requests from scientists for samples that they can work on. When they hear about something exciting at a big meeting, they want to work on that sample themselves!

So I’ve spent quite a lot of time over the past few weeks weighing out and preparing samples for study. This involves a fair amount of paperwork – and there’s lots of paperwork for the Australian trip too. Not my favourite part of the job.