Fireballs in the Sky is an innovative Australian citizen science program that invites people around the world to learn about fireball and meteorite science and contribute fireball sightings via user-friendly smartphone app. To date, more than 24,000 people in 88 countries have download the app and participated in planetary science.
The program is the outreach arm of the Desert Fireball Network project, which aims to understand the early workings of the solar system by studying meteorites, fireballs and their pre-Earth orbits by capturing the paths of fireballs in the sky from multiple viewpoints.
Meteorites are the oldest rocks in existence: the only surviving physical record of the formation and evolution of the solar system. They sample hundreds of different heavenly bodies. Potentially, meteorites offer a direct route to understanding our origins. But to decode that record we need to know where they come from. The Desert Fireball Network (or DFN for short) is designed to provide that data.
Meteorites generate a fireball as they come through the atmosphere – you may even have seen one of these yourself. The DFN is a network of digital cameras in the outback desert of Australia which capture photographs of the night sky. By making networked observations of the fireball we can triangulate its trajectory, track the rock forward to where it lands, and back, to where it came from in the solar system.
More and more cameras are being added to the DFN as the project expands. The final network will image the night sky over roughly one-third of Australia, and track whatever is coming through the atmosphere. DFN researchers will then go out and recover the meteorite. Knowing where the meteorite came from, and what it is made of, will help us to address some of the biggest questions in planetary science: how our planetary system came into being, and how dust and gas produced a planet capable of supporting life – our Earth.
Fireballs in the Sky is a citizen science initiative that allows everyone to share the discoveries of the Desert Fireball Network. On this website you can see a research project as it happens, use the app to provide your own data, and experience the highs (and the occasional lows) as we experience them. Thanks for joining in!
Fireballs in the Sky is a Curtin University project and an Inspiring Australia initiative, supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Industry. Views expressed on this website are not the official university view.