The US military confirms the first known impact of an interstellar meteorite

Three years after the discovery, the US military has confirmed that an interstellar object crashed into Earth in August 2014. A particularly unusual search episode may now pick up steam, as there may even be remains of the meteorite on Earth.

US astrophysicist Amir Siraj discovered the extraordinary impact in a NASA meteorite database, he told US magazine Vice. Just because of the object’s immense speed of more than 200,000 kilometers per hour, he immediately noticed it. In one analysis, he determined the interstellar origin with 99.999% certainty. But after submitting it to a trade magazine, bureaucracy got in the way.

The pre-study was published on Arxiv in early July 2019 and was to be published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. However, this still did not happen because important data for the review were not available. Some of the sensors used to automatically detect meteorites and fireballs belong to the US military and are also used to search for nuclear detonations. In order not to disclose the abilities, the data was secret and independent confirmation of the discovery was not possible, he described to Vice. As a result, he embarked on an odyssey through bureaucracy with his teacher Avi Loeb. At the beginning of March, the Space Force then confirmed the analysis of the two and they have now heard about it on Twitter.

This means that research into the extraordinary impact can now be accelerated. It would only be the third interstellar object ever discovered in the solar system, but its impact occurred years before the 2I/Borisov and ʻOumuamua transits. The interstellar meteorite measured about 45 centimeters and crashed into the Earth’s atmosphere on August 1, 2014 over Papua New Guinea. Its immense speed indicates that it came from the depths of another planetary system or from a star in the galactic disk of the Milky Way. Despite the slim chance of finding remains, Siraj wants to try. If fragments really existed, their scientific value would be immeasurable, they would be the first material outside our solar system that could be analyzed directly.

Siraj tells Vice that finding the meteorite in NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) database wasn’t even difficult. Of the approximately 1000 recorded impacts there, it jumped straight because the velocity was so great that a solar system origin was unlikely. Before the discovery of the first interstellar comet ʻOumuamua in 2017, no one thought of looking for meteorites that did not come from the solar system. The discovery once again indicates that there are many more objects of interstellar origin in the solar system than previously thought.

Already in 2007, the possible discovery of an extragalactic meteorite was announced. The object had sped through the atmosphere at over a million miles per hour and therefore must have come from outside the Milky Way, it was said at the time. Siraj now advocates intensifying the search for such items. A sensor network similar to that used by the US military could use the entire Earth’s atmosphere as a sensor.


(me)

To the home page

Leave a Comment