A fireball soared through the skies of Papua New Guinea in 2014, classified data prevented scientists from verifying its discovery for 3 years. But finally it has been revealed that it was a small meteorite, the first interstellar meteorite known so far, according to a recent memo published by the United States Space Command (USSC).
It’s a fast-moving object from another star system, Brandon Specktor writes for Live Science. A small meteorite barely 0.45 meters in diameter crashed into the Earth’s atmosphere on January 8, 2014, after traveling through space at more than 210,000 km/h.
According to a 2019 study on the object, the average speed of meteors orbiting within the solar system is less than that of the object in question. For this reason, he could not have been a close visitor. The detection even predates the controversial and popular ‘Oumuamua, making the 2014 object the first known meteorite and interstellar object ever detected in our solar system.
This discovery had been detailed in the 2019 study, which ensured 99% certainty that the object had originated far beyond our solar system. However, the paper was never peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal, and this was because some of the data needed to verify its calculations was considered classified by the US government, explains Vice.com.
“The confirmation supports the discovery of the first interstellar meteorite – and, retroactively, the first known interstellar object of any kind to arrive in our solar system – which was initially flagged by a pair of Harvard University researchers in a study published in the arXiv preprint server in 2019”.
Now that this data has been revealed, official confirmation has been made: “to confirm that a previously detected interstellar object was indeed an interstellar object, a confirmation that helped the astronomical community at large.”
6/ “I had the pleasure of signing a memorandum with @ussfspoc‘s, 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
The meteor would have streaked through the skies over Papua New Guinea like a fireball, and scientists believe it possibly sprayed interstellar debris into the South Pacific Ocean. If so, it would be much more exciting, although the chances of finding remains of this meteorite are slim.
“I get excited just thinking about the fact that we have interstellar material that has made it to Earth, and we know where it is,” Amir Siraj, who is Director of Interstellar Object Studies at the Harvard Galileo Project, said on a call. “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 the coast of Papua New Guinea and see if we can get any fragments.”
“It would be a great undertaking, but we are going to study it in extreme depth because the possibility of obtaining the first piece of interstellar material is exciting enough to check it very thoroughly and talk to all the world experts in ocean expeditions to recover meteorites, “he said. .
The 2019 study detailing the interstellar object is posted on the arXiv preprint server.
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