There is still no indication that a meteorite fell near Dunedin last month

A search is underway in farmland near Dunedin for a meteorite that fell to Earth about two weeks ago.
picture: RNZ / Tim Brown

A search of farmland near Dunedin was unable to discover any remains of meteor that crashed last month.

Those behind the search say it’s now unlikely to be found, but the stubborn optimist still holds hope.

A team of 20 people searched for the elusive, strange rocks about two weeks ago, before 50 researchers combed a farm near Dunedin on Friday and a similar number of students gave them one last time over the weekend.

University of Otago geologist Marshall Palmer (left) who coordinated the weekend research and University of Canterbury senior lecturer Dr Michael Bannister.

University of Otago geologist Marshall Palmer (left) who coordinated the weekend research and University of Canterbury senior lecturer Dr Michael Bannister.
picture: RNZ / Tim Brown

Dr Michelle Bannister, senior lecturer at the University of Canterbury, said the rock was essentially a time capsule.

“This is a brick of matter that was used to make the planets – just like the ones we’re walking through four and a half billion years later,” Dr. Bannister said.

That is why the meteorite was so valuable to scientists – it can tell them a lot about the universe.

“Our planet has winds, it has weather, it has storms, it has erosion, it has biology — it has all these wonderful processes that modify its interior and its surface and the landscapes that we see today. But a meteorite, it is the source of matter for that — asteroids or comets — that hasn’t experienced any of that, so It allows us to look back at what things were like when the planets were born.”

Unfortunately, these secrets will remain hidden for some time now, as the search has not been able to reveal any remnants of the meteorite.

Marshall Palmer said it was not surprising that the meteorite had not been found, given that it could be the size of a pebble.

Marshall Palmer said it was not surprising that the meteorite had not been found, given that it could be the size of a pebble.
picture: RNZ / Tim Brown

It’s an unsurprising finding given that the researchers were trying to track something potentially as small as a pebble across thousands of meters of farmland, said University of Otago geologist Marshall Palmer, who coordinated the research.

“I think it would be very easy to find a needle in a haystack – you can just point a magnet through it. But a meteorite is much higher,” he said.

“I still feel like the meteorite is out there, and if you go out on the weekend and have a little curiosity, there’s still a slight chance we’ll find it. But the fact that we have so many people roaming the Earth makes the probability of finding it seem much lower.”

But he did not lose hope and was intending to return with a metal detector in the future.

The meteor was spotted coming into Earth’s atmosphere by cameras created by Fireballs Aotearoa.

The network has only been online for months, with the latest cameras set up in Southland just a week before it goes down.

Over the weekend, a team of 50 researchers was searching farmland near Dunedin for the meteor that crashed to Earth about two weeks ago.

Over the weekend, a team of 50 researchers was searching farmland near Dunedin for the meteor that crashed to Earth about two weeks ago.
picture: RNZ / Tim Brown

The net has already proven its worth, said Thomas Stephenson, Fireballs research assistant at Aotearoa.

“It’s very opportune for us to have these cameras in place because without them we wouldn’t have had that precise triangulation and a really confined search area.”