Spy satellites, weather radars, and drones are used to find new, scattering fields of meteorites


Spy satellites, weather radars, and drones are used to find new, scattering fields of meteorites

A field team from Monash University searches for meteorites in the new sparse field. Credit: Gaofeng Ni

A field team led by Professor Andy Tomkins from the School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment at Monash University has found the largest sparse meteorite field in Australia since the famous Murchison meteorite fall in 1969.


On July 31, 2013, the US Department of Defense satellites detected an unusually large atmospheric explosion, equivalent to 220 tons of TNT, which researchers estimated was an asteroid weighing six tons, 1.5 meters in diameter.

Dr. Hadrian Devilpoix of the Space Science and Technology Center (SSTC) at Curtin University recognized the opportunity to find meteorites on Earth from this explosion. The Met Office recently made its weather radar data openly available for search, under the initiatives of Dr. Joshua Soderholm. In the United States, weather radars have been used to track meteorites as they fall and to locate the search area on Earth.

Dr. Devillepoix said: “We were very excited because so few meteorites have been found using this method using the US radar network, and if we find any from this event, it will be the first time it has been achieved elsewhere.”

Using these techniques, Dr. Devilboys calculated a possible fall zone (“scattered field”) on the ground where meteorite samples were most likely to be found – a six-kilometer ellipse north of Port Augusta, SA.

“A sparse field is an area on Earth where meteorites from the same asteroid can be found,” Professor Tomkins said.

Professor Tomkins has extensive experience leading field searches for meteorites in the Nullarbor Plain and collaborates with the Desert Fireball Network (DFN) team from Curtin University.

Armed with a treasure map, a Monash field team led by Professor Tomkins made their way to the site and found the first meteorites within 10 minutes of searching. Over several days, 44 meteorites were recovered, with a total mass of just over four kilos.

“This discovery is very exciting because it is the first sparse meteorite field resulting from a new fall event to be identified since the famous Murchison meteorite fall in 1969,” said Professor Tomkins.

Field team member, Seamus Anderson of SSTC at Curtin University recently developed a new technique for identifying meteorites in drone images using machine learning.

Mr Anderson said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to improve our method of recovering meteorites, and it usually takes a research team hundreds of hours to fully search such a large area – a drone could do it in less than a day.”

Anderson said, “This is the first of its kind in the world, using artificial intelligence and machine learning to map a sparse meteorite field.”

Using this new approach, scientists can combine both weather radar and all sky camera network technologies to produce more accurate calculations of the meteorites’ orbital origin.

“This gives us a completely new tool for tracking meteorites and where they came from,” said Dr. Eleanor Sansom, DFN team manager at Curtin SSTC.

Scientists from Monash collected the meteorites carefully to avoid any microbial contamination from outside the natural environment where the meteorites were found.

Microbiologist Dr Rachel Laban of Monash University said: “This is the perfect opportunity to conduct the first study of how microbes interact with a recently fallen meteorite.”

“We think that as microbes first move into a new environment, they initially survive by consuming minerals and even gases from the atmosphere – and this is the perfect opportunity to test these concepts,” she said.

Mr Ben McHenry of the South Australian Museum said: “This is a rare event, we are very excited to be showing these meteorites; it’s great to have this collaboration between universities and museums to share the excitement with everyone.”

“The South Australian Museum will be displaying many of the meteorites recovered from the new sparse field in the Six Extinctions exhibition, which opens on Saturday 26 November, and we encourage everyone to come down and have a look.”

“Because this event occurred in the daytime, and a full year before DFN began observing the skies, it really shows the value of open datasets,” said Dr. Devilpoix.

“Without people like Dr. Soderholm or the person who pressured the US Department of Defense to release the support data and think outside the box and expect that the data could have other applications, this wouldn’t have been possible.”

Scientists from Monash and Curtin are conducting more research on meteorites, and are looking to apply radar technology to other meteorites. meteor the fall.

Introduction of
Monash University

the quote: Spy Satellites, Weather Radars, and Drones Used to Find New Scattered Field of Meteorites (2022, November 21) Retrieved November 22, 2022, from https://phys.org/news/2022-11-spy-satellites-weather-radars – drones. html

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