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Curtin University

Curtin University

Fireballs in the Sky: mobile app engages Australians in scientific meteorite research

Curtin University has a mission to change minds, lives and the world through leadership, innovation and excellence in teaching and research.  The Science and Engineering Faculty is committed to improving people's understandings of planetary science research and enhancing their attitudes towards science.

Fireballs in the Sky (FITS) is a Curtin University innovation initiative, aiming to get Australians involved in the ‘Desert Fireball Network’ research project in a fun and engaging way. Curtin partnered with ThoughtWorks to deliver a mobile application for both iOS and Android that allows members of the public to report their own meteorite sightings.

With just a smartphone, it is amazing, we can figure out whether a lump of rock came from outside the orbit of Jupiter” 

Phil Bland, Professor, Curtin University

While it’s not everyday that fireballs fall from the sky, a focus of the project was to create apps that people were compelled to use, even when there are no meteorite sightings to report. The apps are a gateway to a rich set of information, including other sightings, news and events and a picture gallery featuring images from the Desert Fireball Network cameras.  All this provides a compelling experience for citizen scientists. 

The app allows the user to accurately reconstruct their meteorite sighting’s trajectory and key attributes.  The team achieved this through extensive use of smartphone sensors, a custom star map with heads-up display, and cool particle animations.  The native implementations also created a great user experience tailored to the different smartphone platforms.

“ThoughtWorks has been amazing and have really gone above and beyond with their skill, energy and ideas. Working with them has been a wonderful experience and the apps they delivered are truly something we are proud of. We have jumped ahead of NASA with this type of outreach. This is something we now want to share world-wide”

Phil Bland, Professor, Curtin University

FITS is the first meteorite reporting app in Australia enabling the public to get involved with a research project in real-time. The app is helping Curtin University get a better understanding of how our planet was formed.