The West

Bid to catch falling stars
Bid to catch falling stars

The WA outback is set to host up to 60 cameras that will track the path of shooting stars as they fall through the atmosphere and help scientists find meteorites that land in the desert.

The first camera will be established in about a month, with the others to be rolled out progressively.

When a rock falls to Earth, the Desert Fireball Network will capture the shooting star on several cameras.

Researchers will then be able to use the multiple sightings to calculate where the meteorite landed and head out into the bush to try to find it.

Curtin University planetary scientist Phil Bland said the cameras would be spread out across the Nullarbor, Murchison and Wheatbelt, covering up to two million square kilometres, or more than half the State.

"We'll be able to see everything that's coming into the atmosphere over that sort of area," Professor Bland said.

He said the project, funded by an Australian Research Council grant, meant researchers could pin down where meteorites landed to within 2-3sqkm, drive out to "literally the middle of nowhere" and march around in the bush looking for the black rock.

He said the technique also meant researchers could track back and calculate which direction the meteorite came from and pinpoint its origin in the solar system.

"I still get really excited just about the fact that we're seeing things coming from out of space," Professor Bland said.

"We'll be able to tell you where it came from and also have the rock in our hands, so it's like having a free trip to that bit of the asteroid belt to pick up a rock."

He estimated that "dozens and dozens" of 100-200g meteorites and many more smaller meteorites fell every year in WA.

Professor Bland said the first cameras were set to be installed in the next month or two at the Perth Observatory and Gingin Observatory and Gravity Discovery Centre.

He hoped at least half the cameras could be located at schools.

The West Australian

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