A meteorite creates a streak of light across the night sky over the North Yorkshire moors at Leaholm, near Whitby, northern England, April 26, 2015 Reuters/Steven Watt

A meteorite weighing 1.7 kilogrammes and estimated to be older than the Earth has been dug out from a remote part of South Australia. Researchers from Curtin University, Perth, had to race against time to recover the ancient meteorite, estimated to be 4.5 billion years old.

A delay of a few hours would have wiped away all traces of the meteorite due to heavy rains, reports the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The meteor was first spotted by locals and five remote cameras in the William Creek and Marree areas in November 2015. The researchers had since then been trying to trace the site where it fell.

Amid a New Year’s Eve downpour, the team finally found the meteor in a 42 centimetres-deep hole in a remote part of Lake Eyre. Team leader Phil Bland said they got there by the skin of their teeth. “It’s older than the Earth. It’s the oldest rock you’ll ever hold in your hand,” says Bland.

According to Bland, it has come from beyond the orbit of Mars, somewhere "in between Mars and Jupiter.” The team used an aerial spotter, a drone, a quad bike and local Aboriginal guides over the three-day search operation.

The rock was tracked via remote cameras as it entered the earth’s atmosphere and landed on November 27. It is one of only about 20 meteorites found in the world with an identified orbit. This indicates that the scientists know where in the solar system it came from and can track it to its original asteroid, reports the Telegraph.

The meteorite is the first finding of a new observation network of 32 remote cameras across WA and South Australia. The cameras, called the Desert Fireball Network, helped the scientists narrow the search area to a 500 metre line.

The researchers believe the meteorite to be chondrite or stony meteorite. It is an example of the material created during the initial formation of the solar system, says Bland.