Search on “fossils of our solar system”

Fireballs Aotearoa wants you to go catch a shooting star.

Or at least capture one on a camera.

Fireballs Aotearoa is a collaborative effort of skywatchers, astronomers and amateur geologists from the University of Canterbury and the University of Otago. Their goal is to create a network of cameras to photograph meteors as they burn through the sky.

Several camera recordings make it possible to follow the trajectory of a meteor. From this, the probable landing site of meteorites, those bits of meteors that land on the ground, can be calculated.

Associate Professor James Scott of Otago’s Department of Geology founded Fireballs Aotearoa last month.

He said around 70,000 meteorites had been collected worldwide, but only 40 had been photographed as they passed through the atmosphere.

Barely 10 meteorites had been discovered in New Zealand.

“There must be more.

“So far we haven’t had the luck or the cameras to find them,” Professor Scott said.

So far, Fireballs Aotearoa has four cameras: two in Nelson and one in Wellington and Invercargill.

It’s a shame for Dunedin – at around 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, University of Otago electron beam data technician Dr Marianne Negrini saw “some kind of large object exploding in the sky”.

It was off Dunedin and quietly broke into two or three pieces, she said.

“You need really good timing to catch them,” Dr. Negrini said.

If a camera had been pointed over the ocean, it might have picked up the fireball as it blazed.

Networks of meteor cameras exist elsewhere in the world.

The UK Meteor Observation Network, part of the larger UK Fireball Alliance, helped recover pieces of the Winchcombe meteorite in south-central England last year.

They were 4.6 billion years old and came from the asteroid belt.

Prof Scott said if a meteorite was found quickly it would not decay and more information could be gleaned from it.

We could tell where it came from and what its orbit was.

He said meteorites were important because they were spyglasses in the past and helped us understand how planets formed.

“These are the fossils of our solar system,” he said.

Some meteorites came from Mars and could tell us more about the history of this planet, he said.

The Winchcombe meteorite was the same material as the sun’s core, Prof Scott said.

Now we can all help find those grace notes of the music of the spheres. The cameras are available on Fireballs Aotearoa’s website, fireballs.nz, for $350. Once installed and connected to your home Wi-Fi network, they search and register.

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