Geologists Found A Rock That's 'Older Than Earth' In The Australian Outback

Geologists Found a Rock That's 'Older Than Earth' in the Australian Outback

Geologists working in Australia have recovered a primordial meteorite that fell to Earth this past November. Using an extensive camera system and some pretty sophisticated maths, the researchers recovered the 4.5-billion-year-old rock just moments before heavy rains would have washed it away. The meteorite, which fell to Earth on 27 November 2015, was witnessed by a number of locals in the William Creek and Marree areas.

Geologists Found a Rock That's 'Older Than Earth' in the Australian Outback

A glimpse of the meteorite as is fell towards Lake Eyre. (Credit: Curtin University, Desert Fireball Network) Importantly, the rock's descent was also tracked by Desert Fireball Network cameras, an array of 32 remote camera observatories stationed across the Australian outback. Using this footage, DFN team members conducted image analysis, triangulation and other calculations to get a sense as to where the meteorite had fallen. Estimates placed the location in the outback near Lake Eyre.

The recovery operation was equally complex. It involved an aerial spotter, a remotely operated drone, two searchers on the lake's surface, and guidance around the area by local inhabitants.

Remarkably, after a three-day search that started on 29 December 2015, the researchers found the 1.7kg rock embedded in thick salt lake mud, and covered by soft wet mud that accumulated on the meteorite after its impact. It was found partially buried in a 42cm hole in a region more than 6km away from the lake's edge.

Geologists Found a Rock That's 'Older Than Earth' in the Australian Outback

Ah, there it is. Aerial reconnaissance was cited as a major contributor to the discovery (Credit: Curtin University, Desert Fireball Network)

Had the researchers arrived a few days later, any trace of it would have been wiped away owing to heavy rains.

"It was an amazing team effort — we got there by the skin of our teeth," noted Curtin University's Phil Bland in a statement.

Geologists Found a Rock That's 'Older Than Earth' in the Australian Outback

Yesssss. Professor Phil Bland celebrates the discovery (Credit: Curtin University, Desert Fireball Network) The researchers say the object is a chondrite or stony meteorite that likely emerged during the early formation of the Solar System more than 4.5 billion years ago. Speaking to ABC News, Bland said the rock "came to us from beyond the orbit of Mars, so in between Mars and Jupiter," adding that "It is older than the Earth itself."

Geologists Found a Rock That's 'Older Than Earth' in the Australian Outback

Science! Robert Howie and Bland show off their meteorite. (Credit: Curtin University, Desert Fireball Network) "This meteorite is of special significance as the camera observations used to calculate the fall positions have also enabled the solar system orbit of the meteorite to be calculated, giving important contextual information for future study," says Bland. "It demonstrates beyond doubt that this giant machine that we've built really works."

[Curtin University, ABC News]

Top image by Curtin University, Desert Fireball Network

WATCH MORE: Science & Health News


    I'm doubtful. Dating old objects isn't a precise art but I'll accept it on face value.

      Dating rocks... pshaw.

      Tracking a rock that fell out of the sky and then recovering it? Amazing!

        I once dated a rock. She was stone-cold. :)

      At 4,500,000,000 years old, does a +/- or a million years realy make that big a difference?

        No, in fact it's this correlation that allows us to validate Clair Cameron Patterson's theories and calculations on the age of the Earth. If the ages were drastically different, then either we measured Earth's age wrong, or we fundamental misunderstood how the solar system formed. The fact that they're close (also demonstrated by previously collected pre-Earth meteorites) contributes to our body of knowledge on these, having far reaching implications for fundamental fields like chemistry, physics and geology.

        All I know is I'm not really comfortable with dating a rock older than me.

      Well so long as you're happy then we can all breath easier.

        By time you said whatever years they are claiming it is,you would be out of they were there?

        Last edited 08/01/16 11:22 am

      I'll send them an email to let them know that an anonymous internet commentator has deigned to give his approval. "Good news; no need to throw out your PhDs yet, gentlemen!"

    That picture of the two of them holding it is gold. I hope that is what shows up in the media around the world for typical Australians... P:

      Only if you can get it to the front page of Reddit/all with the title Typical Australians.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now