(ORDO NEWS) — Back in 2014, an object fell into the ocean off the coast of Papua New Guinea. The data collected at the time indicated that the meteorite could be an interstellar object, and if true, then it is only the third known such object (after Oumuamua and Borisov) and the first known to exist on Earth.
Starting an underwater expedition to find it would be a long way off, but the scientific payoff can be enormous.
Named by CNEOS on January 08, 2014, the candidate interstellar object is believed to be about half a meter wide, and its potential interstellar origin was first discovered by then-graduate student Amir Siraj and Harvard professor Avi Loeb.
Using catalog data about the object’s trajectory, Siraj and Loeb concluded that it could be from the outside. our solar system due to its unusually high heliocentric speed in other words, it was moving at a speed that suggests it could not be bound by the Sun’s gravity well.
However, there is one catch. The data used to measure the object’s impact on Earth came from a US Department of Defense spy satellite designed to monitor military activities on Earth.
Therefore, the exact values of the measurement error are a closely guarded secret. The US military fears that the exact capabilities of their satellite will become public knowledge.
But without these details, much of the scientific community is understandably still unwilling to formally classify CNEOS on January 08, 2014 as an interstellar object. Thus, Siraj and Loeb’s paper remains unpublished and has not yet been peer-reviewed.
However, their claim was confirmed in April 2022 when US Space Forces Space Command Chief Scientist Joel Moser reviewed classified information. the data in question and “confirmed that the velocity estimate provided by NASA is accurate enough to indicate an interstellar trajectory.”
While the official CNEOS scientific classification on January 08, 2014 seems doomed to remain in limbo, for now the US Space Force announcement was enough to convince Siraj and Loeb of its interstellar origin, and now they have moved on to suggesting possible ways to find the object and study it up close.
Much. part of the meteorite would burn up during its descent into the Earth’s atmosphere, leaving probably only fragments scattered across the ocean floor.
However, not all hope is lost, as satellite tracking data combined with wind and ocean current data can provide an acceptable search area as small as 10 x 10 km.
More importantly, the fragments are expected to be magnetic, so a ship pulling a large magnet could potentially scoop up tiny meteorite fragments from the ocean floor.
Siraj and Loeb are proposing to do just that, and have teamed up with an ocean technology consulting firm to make it happen.
In an interview with Universe Today last year, Loeb explained that such a search could give us “the ability to really get hold of a relic and find out if it’s natural, if it’s rock, or, you know, a small fraction of these [interstellar objects] could be artificial.”
In recent years, Loeb has been open about the potential of interstellar objects such as CNEOS 2014-01-08, Oumuamua and Borisov must be artificial objects created by extraterrestrial intelligence. As head of the Galileo project, finding evidence for intelligent life in the universe is one of his main areas of research.
But his more extravagant claims drew criticism from some of his peers in the astronomical community. However, in the case of CNEOS 01/08/2014, Loeb does not go so far as to suggest that this is an alien artifact.
“This result does not mean that the first interstellar meteor was artificially created by a technological civilization rather than a natural one,” he and Siraj write in their latest paper on an ocean expedition. But it’s clear that Loeb thinks it won’t hurt to find the object and have a look.
Even if it’s just rock – which is the most likely explanation – it would tell us a lot about the composition of rocky matter outside our solar system, and that in itself would be a valuable piece of new data.
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