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Scientists are hunting for a meteorite that just struck in Australia

Updated Jan 28th, 2019 10:00AM EST
perth fireball
Image: © Robert Mikaelyan

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A meteor streaked through the skies above a heavily populated area of Australia last night, prompting countless residents to gaze skyward and sparking a scientific hunt for any chunks the speeding space rock may have left behind. Appearing in the night sky above Perth, Australia’s largest city as well as its capital, the fireball’s appearance was captured by many amateur observers who just happened to have a camera pointed in the right place at the right time, including Robert Mikaelyan.

Now, with the rock’s tumble towards Earth still fresh in everyone’s memory, scientists are in a race against time to find the charred remnants of the rock before they’re either buried by soil and dust or scooped up by a private citizen who might want to keep it for themselves.

If you happened to be outside with a clear line-of-sight when the meteor began speeding through the atmosphere there’s little chance you could have missed it. It was incredibly bright, as this dashcam video posted by the Perth Observatory shows:

Eyewitnesses reported thinking that it was lightning on the horizon before realizing it was something entirely different. According to a local ABC affiliate, several people called emergency service numbers out of fear that they had just witnessed a UFO crash or landing.

Well, it wasn’t an alien, but it definitely wasn’t from our planet. The rock’s descent has been calculated by researchers using a number of different observations of the fireball, and once the approximate coordinates are distributed there will surely be several meteorite hunting expeditions. Any remnants of the meteor will be dark gray or black in color, and likely smooth on the outside due to the intense heat it endured as it sped towards the ground.

If scientists can get their hands on it they’ll be able to offer an educated guess as to where the rock originated, be it the outer Solar System or somewhere closer, like the area between Jupiter and Mars.