Astronomers have identified the second interstellar fireball that exploded in the Earth’s atmosphere

(ORDO NEWS) — Data from the flyby of a meteor that exploded over the Pacific Ocean in 2017 pointed to its extrasolar nature.

Perhaps it was a fragment left over from a distant supernova explosion: rich in heavy elements and superhard “interstellar projectile”.

Entering the atmosphere at great speed, small celestial bodies quickly become hot and begin to glow brightly, and most of them scatter into tiny particles before reaching the surface of the Earth.

Sometimes the flight and explosion of such fireballs can be recorded by various means of observation, and this gives scientists information that allows them to evaluate the trajectory, speed and other properties of the crumbling celestial body.

One of these objects was spotted by the radar of the US Department of Defense in 2014, near Papua New Guinea.

A few years later, Harvard astrophysicists Amir Siraj and Avi Loeb showed that the trajectory and speed of this body indicate that it came from outside the solar system.

The same can be said about its record strength of the material from which the meteor consisted: according to scientists, it was about 20 times higher than that of ordinary stone meteorites, and twice that of iron ones.

Later, the calculations of Siraj and Loeb were confirmed by the experts of the US Department of Defense itself.

In their new paper, the pair of scientists presented another similar object that could have an extrasolar origin – “Interstellar Meteor 2” (Interstellar Meteor 2, IM2). It was registered off the coast of Portugal in March 2017.

Both the unusually high speed (nearly 37 km/s) and the fall trajectory set IM2 apart from ordinary meteorites, indicating a possible extrasolar origin.

According to calculations, the strength of the material from which IM2 was composed was also prohibitive; according to this indicator, it ranks third among all known meteors for which it was determined.

Siraj and Loeb are sure that this is not a mere coincidence. Their paper is featured in the arXiv online preprint library.

“We do not have enough statistics to understand how much stronger interstellar objects should be than solar ones,” says Amir Siraj. “But the chances that two of these objects accidentally hit the Top 3 out of 273 are one in ten thousand.”

“For us, this means that the source of origin of this body is significantly different from planetary systems like the Sun,” adds Professor Loeb.

The authors propose several hypotheses about the origin of IM2. In particular, it could be a fragment created by a distant supernova explosion.

And, of course, scientists do not discount the idea of ​​​​the artificial nature of a superhard meteor. Avi Loeb is widely known for such ideas, rather extravagant for the conservative part of the scientific community.

Recall that earlier it was he who suggested that the interstellar asteroid Oumuamua, which swept through the inner solar system several years ago, could be a probe of an alien civilization.


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