IN SPACE - NOVEMBER 19: This image taken with a meteorite tracking device developed by George Varros, shows a meteorite as it enters Earth's atmosphere during the Leonid meteor shower November 19, 2002. The device, which is deployed on board a NASA DC-8, tracks and photographs meteorites. (Photo : George Varros and Dr. Peter Jenniskens/NASA/Getty Images)
What's nearly 2 kilos and is older than the Earth itself?
If you ask geologist Phil Bland, it's a meteorite about 4.5 billion years old.
"The meteorite was retrieved from the outback using a new 32-camera network, a light plane, quad bikes and a drone," The Guardian reported, adding that Bland had dug the artifact by hand from a hole 42 centimeters deep on New Year's Eve somewhere in the South Australian outback.
"It is older than the Earth itself," Bland declared. "It's the oldest rock you'll ever hold in your hand."
"It came to us from beyond the orbit of Mars, so in between Mars and Jupiter," he went on. "It is a big deal because space agencies like Nasa or Jaxa [the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency] will spend a billion dollars trying to get to an asteroid and bring a sample back, so potentially we can do it for a lot less than that.
Bland, who led the Curtin University research team, said of the expedition as "an amazing effort" as it took some time before the team tracked the meteorite, which plummeted into the Earth's surface some time in late November last year. It was later dug out from an area on Lake Eyre, with a storm right on their heels.
"The geologists dug the 1.7-kilogram meteorite out just hours before heavy rains would have wiped away any trace of it," ABC News Australia reported.
"The meteorite is the first result of a new observation network of 32 remote cameras across WA and South Australia," the news outlet added. "Called the Desert Fireball Network, the cameras helped to narrow the search area to a 500 metre line."
According to mechatronic engineer Jonathan Paxman, unearthing the meteorite in itself was already a remarkable accomplishment, as its fall site was very hard to get to and had a surface that was soft in some spots due to rainfall.
"The meteorite was thought to be a chondrite or stony meteorite, providing an example of material created during the early formation of the solar system more than 4.5 billion years ago," the news source said. "The meteorite is also one of only 20 worldwide with an identified orbit, allowing the team to track it back to its original asteroid."
As the meteorite was found in an area traditionally owned by the Arabana people, the researchers asked them to name the space rock in their language.
Currently, the team is not resting on their achievement as there still are 10 more crash sites for them to check.