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British scientists launch ‘Fireball Network’ of cameras to track meteorites striking the UK

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British scientists have launched a ‘Fireball Network’ of cameras to track meteorites striking the UK and triangulate the position of the fallen space rocks.

The camera network — which will ultimately span ten different sites — will allow scientists to send out search teams to recover meteorites for analysis.

Studying meteorite samples allows researchers to gain insights into the processes that formed both our solar system and other planets.

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British scientists have launched a 'Fireball Network' of cameras to track meteorites striking the UK and triangulate the position of the fallen space rocks. Pictured, one of the UK Fireball Network's newest cameras, located at the Spaceguard Centre in Wales

British scientists have launched a 'Fireball Network' of cameras to track meteorites striking the UK and triangulate the position of the fallen space rocks. Pictured, one of the UK Fireball Network's newest cameras, located at the Spaceguard Centre in Wales

British scientists have launched a ‘Fireball Network’ of cameras to track meteorites striking the UK and triangulate the position of the fallen space rocks. Pictured, one of the UK Fireball Network’s newest cameras, located at the Spaceguard Centre in Wales

The camera network — which will ultimately span ten different sites — will allow scientists to send out search teams to recover meteorites for analysis. Pictured, a meteorite spotted by the firewall network on February 16 2020, which landed in the North Sea

The camera network — which will ultimately span ten different sites — will allow scientists to send out search teams to recover meteorites for analysis. Pictured, a meteorite spotted by the firewall network on February 16 2020, which landed in the North Sea

The camera network — which will ultimately span ten different sites — will allow scientists to send out search teams to recover meteorites for analysis. Pictured, a meteorite spotted by the firewall network on February 16 2020, which landed in the North Sea

Led from the University of Glasgow and Imperial College London, the UK Fireball Network will ultimately comprise 10 cameras set up across the UK.

These will look out for the natural firework displays generated as space rocks burn up during their passage through the Earth’s atmosphere.

The first of such ‘fireballs’ was spotted by the cameras in Washingborough, Lincoln and at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory, Cambridgeshire last month.

While the meteorites from this event fell into the North Sea, from where they could not be recovered, experts hope that the location of future impacts on land can be triangulated, allowing volunteers to recover the space rocks.

The UK Fireball Network also has cameras in Ripon in North Yorkshire, Effingham in Surrey, the Spaceguard Centre in Knighton, Wales and in Galloway, Scotland — which will eventually be joined by four more, including one in Northern Island.

‘Meteorites provide scientists with invaluable insights into other planets and our solar system,’ said geoscientist Luke Daly of the University of Glasgow.

‘A good deal of what we know about the surface of Mars, for example, comes from analysis of chunks of the planet which were blasted off its surface by asteroid impacts millions of years ago and drifted in space before falling to Earth.’

‘Meteorites enter our atmosphere all the time but the UK hasn’t had a great track record of finding them in recent years.’

‘In fact, it’s been nearly 30 years since one was last seen dropping into a back garden in Glatton in Cambridgeshire, and more than 100 years since one was observed in Scotland.’

Studying meteorite samples allows researchers to gain insights into the processes that formed both our solar system and other planets. Pictured, one of the network's cameras

Studying meteorite samples allows researchers to gain insights into the processes that formed both our solar system and other planets. Pictured, one of the network's cameras

Studying meteorite samples allows researchers to gain insights into the processes that formed both our solar system and other planets. Pictured, one of the network’s cameras

Led from the University of Glasgow and Imperial College London, the UK Fireball Network will ultimately comprise 10 cameras set up across the UK. Pictured, one of the network's cameras

Led from the University of Glasgow and Imperial College London, the UK Fireball Network will ultimately comprise 10 cameras set up across the UK. Pictured, one of the network's cameras

Led from the University of Glasgow and Imperial College London, the UK Fireball Network will ultimately comprise 10 cameras set up across the UK. Pictured, one of the network’s cameras

These will look out for the natural firework displays generated as space rocks burn up during their passage through the Earth's atmosphere. Pictured, a meteorite spotted by the firewall network on February 16 2020, which landed in the North Sea

These will look out for the natural firework displays generated as space rocks burn up during their passage through the Earth's atmosphere. Pictured, a meteorite spotted by the firewall network on February 16 2020, which landed in the North Sea

These will look out for the natural firework displays generated as space rocks burn up during their passage through the Earth’s atmosphere. Pictured, a meteorite spotted by the firewall network on February 16 2020, which landed in the North Sea

‘Catching images on more than one camera allows us to estimate not just where they land but calculate the trajectory of their arrival, which allows us to calculate where in space it came from,’ Dr Daly added.

‘Pooling all our resources maximises the chances of capturing these elusive events.’

‘It was very exciting to capture our first images of a fireball caught by two of our observatories, although it was obviously disappointing that the material it dropped fell into the sea.’

The first of such 'fireballs' was spotted by the cameras in Washingborough, Lincoln and at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory, Cambridgeshire last month. According to the researcher's tracking, pictured, the meteorites from this event fell into the North Sea

The first of such 'fireballs' was spotted by the cameras in Washingborough, Lincoln and at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory, Cambridgeshire last month. According to the researcher's tracking, pictured, the meteorites from this event fell into the North Sea

The first of such ‘fireballs’ was spotted by the cameras in Washingborough, Lincoln and at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory, Cambridgeshire last month. According to the researcher’s tracking, pictured, the meteorites from this event fell into the North Sea

‘When we do catch sight of a fireball dropping meteorites on land, we’ll need the help of volunteers to help comb the countryside to find them.’

‘So anyone interested in making a little bit of history by getting involved can follow us on Twitter at @FireballsUK.’

The UK meteorite tracking network will be  linked to the Global Fireball Observatory, which is run by researchers from Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SPACE ROCKS?

An asteroid is a large chunk of rock left over from collisions or the early solar system. Most are located between Mars and Jupiter in the Main Belt.

A comet is a rock covered in ice, methane and other compounds. Their orbits take them much further out of the solar system.

A meteor is what astronomers call a flash of light in the atmosphere when debris burns up.

This debris itself is known as a meteoroid. Most are so small they are vapourised in the atmosphere.

If any of this meteoroid makes it to Earth, it is called a meteorite.

Meteors, meteoroids and meteorites normally originate from asteroids and comets.

For example, if Earth passes through the tail of a comet, much of the debris burns up in the atmosphere, forming a meteor shower.

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