When on January 8, 2014, a small rock exploded above the skies of the islands of Papua New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean After entering Earth’s atmosphere at full speed, the event didn’t attract too much attention from astronomers.
But some time later, Amir Siraj Y Avi Loeb, Harvard University astronomers, recovered the records of that atmospheric impact and verified that this meteorite had reached Earth at an extraordinary speed: 210,000 km / h, well above the typical speed of the original rocks of our Solar System. Furthermore, the trajectory of its orbit made it clear that the rock “did not come from here,” but had formed far away, in some remote planetary system of a distant star.
That space rock was actually the first known object from another star system, As confirmed today by United States Space Command (USSC) in a newly released note, and previously classified. The confirmation supports the discovery of the first interstellar meteorite which was first noted by Harvard theoretical astrophysicist Amir Siraj and his mentor Avi Loeb in a study published on the prepress server arXiv in 2019.
In the 2019 study, The researchers argued that the meteorite’s speed – just 0.45 meters in diameter, and that it traveled through space at more than 210,000 km / h – along with the trajectory of its orbit, demonstrated with 99% certainty that the ‘object had originated far beyond our solar system, perhaps “from the depths of a planetary system or from a star in the thick disk of the Milky Way,” the authors wrote. Despite their near certainty, the pair of scientists had a hard time getting their study peer reviewed due to the bureaucracy surrounding the object of study.
The team’s work, never published before in a scientific journal, was withheld from some of the data needed to verify his calculations, which were considered classified by the United States government.
USSC: “Actually an interstellar object”
In a note dated March 1 and shared on Twitter on April 6, Lieutenant General John E. Shaw, deputy commander of the USSC, wrote that the 2019 fireball analysis was “accurate enough to confirm an interstellar trajectory.”.
Now, the 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 note now declassified. 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 moves too fast to have originated in our solar system – and Comet Borisov, which were much larger and did not come into close contact with Earth.
Even, Avi Loebastrophysicist of Harvard University, He went even further, and launched a controversial hypothesis: Oumuamua was the remains of an alien spaceship. Since Oumuamua is now out of the reach of the most powerful telescopes, it can no longer be seen. But as debate over its origin rages, a team has outlined an ambitious plan to send a probe to reach the mysterious space object as it relentlessly moves farther 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 end once and for all with 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 United States government report.
Look for interstellar debris
Siraj said that he still intends to publish the original study, so that the scientific community can pick up where he and his colleagues left off. Because the meteor ignited in the South Pacific Ocean, it is possible that fragments of the object landed in the water and have nested on the sea floor ever since, he added. While locating this interstellar debris can be a near-impossible task, Siraj said he is already consulting with experts to organize an expedition to recover it.
“It excites me just to think that we have interstellar material that has reached Earth and we know where it is,” said Siraj, who is director of interstellar object studies at Harvard’s Galileo Project. “One thing I’ll check – and I’m already talking to people – is whether it is possible to search the ocean floor off the coast of Papua New Guinea. and see if we can get some fragments, “he added.