Underestimating plain-looking things is not a good practice as it may come laughing back at us once its true value has been realized. Such may be the case of a seemingly insignificant rock recently discovered.
The fallen meteorite unearthed by Curtin University scientists in Australia on New Year's Eve may look ordinary, but it may actually solve the mystery of how the universe was formed.
A new system of cameras by Desert Fireball Network (DFN) has recently been installed across the William Creek, Mount Barry, Billa Kalina and Wilpoorina. For its first major feat, it was able to capture a meteorite crashing to the Earth on Nov. 27, 2015. Some locals also witnessed the event, catapulting scientists to excitement.
The team members of DFN, whose main goal is to determine where meteorites came from in the solar system, started working to pinpoint the exact fall site. They analyzed the images and performed dynamic calculations to do just that.
After the analytic process, the researchers then set out to Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre to get their hands on the meteorite. The retrieval operation lasted for three days and involved range of strategic tools such as an aerial spotter, two lake surface searchers, a remotely operated drone and some help from Arabana men Dean Stuart and Dave Strangways, who are locals in the area.
"It was an amazing team effort - we got there by the skin of our teeth," says team leader Phil Bland, a planetary geologist.
Moments before the team spotted the meteorite, they started feeling depressed, thinking they could never find their subject, says Bland. Just then, a team member heard someone from the plane saying, "I've seen it, I've seen it."
The next thing they know, they were digging a hole in the muddy lake bed. Bland hand-dug a deep hole that reached 42 centimeters in depth before the glorious meteorite surfaced. Good thing they were able to finish hollowing the ground hours before a heavy downpour wiped the traces of the rock away.
Team member Jonathan Paxman says the area where the meteorite fell was really hard to access. The site was about 6 kilometers away from a secluded area of the lake's edge. The surface of the land was also quite soft because of the recent rainfall. "The fact we have managed to retrieve the meteorite at all is remarkable," he said.
Paxman also credited the entire team as they worked continuously to reduce the data, making it possible to retrieve something that could have been lost should they had arrived at the area a little later.
In the end, the data observations from the air saved the day. Because the rain has deteriorated the impact site significantly, it was quite difficult for the experts to see from the ground.
Now, the researchers are excited to study the meteorite. The rock is said to be an example of a material that was created 4.5 billion years ago - the time when the Solar System was first formed.
Rocks on the ground are numerous. The recently unearthed meteorite is just one of them. Researchers said each of these rocks will serve as a window toward discovering more about the origins of the Solar System.
A meteorite is a meteoroid that was able to survive travel through the atmosphere and reached the surface of the Earth. Most of these rocks are believed to be remnants of the Solar System's formation, meaning these were the unused parts during the creation of moons, planets and asteroids.
Meteorites drift through the system until they hit or are caught up in the gravity of a larger cosmic object like the Earth.