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SPACE – The discovery had gone almost unnoticed in 2014. At the time, however, an object interstellar crashed into our planet. A meteor had been seen lighting up in the sky near Papua New Guinea, likely ending its course in the South Pacific Ocean.
To this day, the note on this event remained classified by the United States government and theUS Space Order. However, this branch of the Pentagon published, on April 7, a press release confirming this discovery of the first interstellar meteor ever observed.
6/ “I had the pleasure of signing a memorandum with @ussfspoc‘s chief scientist, Dr. Mozer, to confirm that a previously detected interstellar object was indeed an interstellar object, a confirmation that helped the astronomical community at large.” pic.twitter.com/PGlIOnCSrW
— US Space Command (@US_SpaceCom) April 7, 2022
This note thus allows the study carried out jointly by the researchers Amir Siraj Y Abraham Loeb, published in 2019, to finally receive peer review and publication. In fact, validation of the veracity of his investigation was previously paralyzed by the unprecedented nature of the discovery that US authorities failed to pass on certain data.
An unidentified object from far away
The discovery of the meteor, which was only a few feet across, follows recent detections of two other interstellar objects on our planet. Solar systemknown as Oumuamua in 2017 and Comet Borisov in 2019, which were much larger and did not come into close contact with Earth.
At the time, Oumuamua’s discovery had raised many theories, presenting the interstellar object as a alien ship. It turned out, however, that the star was nothing less than a fragment of a planet from another solar system.
It was after the discovery of Oumuamua that Amir Siraj and co-author Abraham Loeb were inspired to search for possible interstellar fireballs. They then saw an object that had exploded near Manus Island on January 8, 2014 at an unusually fast speed, exceeding 130,000 miles per hour. This speed is according to researchers the signal of a “possible origin from the deep interior of a planetary system or a star in the thick disk of the Milky Way galaxy”.
A treasure for science.
“I enjoy thinking about the fact that we have interstellar material that has been delivered to Earth, and we know where it is,” Amir Siraj said for Vice. the latter now wishes to try to recover possible remains of the object. “One thing I’m going to check, and I’m already talking to people, is if it’s possible to look at the bottom of the ocean off Papua New Guinea and see if we can get any fragments.”
However, the odds of finding this interstellar body are slim, as all of the fireball debris likely landed in small numbers in a disparate region of the South Pacific Ocean, making it even more difficult to find.
“It would be a big undertaking, but we’re going to look at it really hard because the prospect of getting the first piece of interstellar material is exciting enough to really check it out and talk to all the world’s experts on ocean-going expeditions to recover meteorites.” explains the researcher.
A discovery that calls others
This interstellar meteor is a sign that the solar system could be awash with material from other star systems, and even other galaxies, which could be discovered by future research. Such efforts could offer glimpses of worlds beyond our Milky Way Galaxy, while there may even be true interstellar treasures to be unearthed on our planet.
“Given the rarity of interstellar meteors, extragalactic meteors are going to be even rarer,” says Amir Siraj for Vice. The latter adds, however, “that in the future we will not find anything unless we look for it. We could, as scientists, build a network as extensive as the network of sensors of the United States government, and use it for scientific purposes and make the most of the atmosphere.”
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