When on January 8, 2014, a small rock exploded in the sky over the islands of Papua New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean After rushing into Earth’s atmosphere, the event didn’t attract too much attention from astronomers.
But the next time, Amir Siraj Yes Avi Loeb, astronomers from Harvard University, retrieved files from this atmospheric impact and verified that this meteorite had reached the Earth at an extraordinary speed: 210,000 km/h, well above the typical speed of native rocks in our solar system. Moreover, the trajectory of its orbit clearly indicated that the rock “was not from here”, but had formed very far away, in a planetary system far from a distant star.
This space rock was actually the first known object from another star system, As confirmed today by United States Space Command (USSC) in a recently published note, and previously classified. The confirmation supports the discovery of the first interstellar meteorite which was originally noted by Harvard theoretical astrophysicist Amir Siraj and his mentor Avi Loeb in a study published on the pre-publication server arXiv in 2019.
In the 2019 study, the researchers argued that the speed of the meteorite, – just 0.45 meters in diameter, and that it streaked through space at more than 210,000 km/h – as well as the trajectory of its orbit, demonstrated with 99% certainty that the object originated far beyond our solar system, possibly “from deep within a planetary system or star in the thick disk of the Milky Way,” the authors wrote. Despite their near certainty, the two scientists had serious difficulty getting their study peer-reviewed due to the bureaucracy surrounding the subject matter of the study.
The team’s work, which had never before been published in a scientific journal, he was held back by some of the data needed to verify his calculations, which were considered classified by the US government.
USSC: “Indeed an interstellar object”
In a note dated March 1 and shared on Twitter on April 6, Lt. Gen. John E. Shaw, deputy commander of the USSC, wrote that the 2019 fireball analysis was “accurate enough to confirm an interstellar trajectory.”.
Now, USSC scientists have officially confirmed their findings. At the Space Foundation’s annual Space Symposium, US Space Command Deputy Commander John Shaw announced that “a previously detected interstellar object was indeed an interstellar object.” in the now declassified note. This confirmation retroactively makes the 2014 meteor the first interstellar object detected in our solar system, the note adds.
The discovery of the meteor follows the recent detection of two other interstellar objects in our solar system., known as ‘Oumuamua – a now famous cigar-shaped object that is also moving too fast to have come from our solar system – and Comet Borisov, which were much larger and did not come into close contact with Earth.
Same, Avi Loebastrophysicist from Harvard University, He went even further, and launched a controversial hypothesis: Oumuamua was the remnant of an alien spacecraft. Because Oumuamua is now beyond the reach of the most powerful telescopes, it can no longer be seen. But as debate over its origin rages on, a team has hatched an ambitious plan to send a probe to catch up with the mysterious space object as it spirals inexorably away from Earth.
The mission could be launched in early 2028 and reach Oumuamua, according to its speed and direction of travel when it left our solar system, between 2050-2054, and thus put an end once and for all to the mystery of its origin.
Although the object detected in Papua New Guinea does not have the charm from Oumuamua, its discovery precedes it, making it the first interstellar object ever detected in our solar system, according to the US government report.
Search for interstellar debris
Siraj claimed that he still intends to publish the original study, so that the scientific community can pick up where he and his colleagues left off. Since the meteorite ignited over the South Pacific Ocean, it is possible that fragments of the object landed in the water and have since nested on the seabed, he added. . While locating this interstellar debris can be a nearly impossible task, Siraj said he is already consulting with experts about mounting an expedition to recover it.
“It excites me just to think about the fact that we have interstellar material that has reached Earth, and we know where it is,” said Siraj, director of interstellar object studies at Harvard’s Galileo Project. “One thing I’m going to check – and I’m already talking to people – is if it’s possible to search the ocean floor off Papua New Guinea and see if we can get some snippets,” he added.