May 27, 2022

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The meteorite that hit Earth in 2014 was of interstellar origin, the first discovery in history. Scientists confirm

It was an interstellar comet that arrived at our planet on January 8, 2014 at 18:05 Italian time. Final confirmation now comes from a group of scientists from the United States Department of Defense

It’s January 8, 2014 6:05 pm Italian time: a rock from space hits our planet. They weren’t aliens, but today we know that the ‘Space Stone’ was one interstellar cometas confirmed by US Department of Defense scientists.

The comet crossed the sky off the coast of Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, releasing energy equivalent to about 110 tons of TNT and unleashing a barrage of debris into the depths of the Pacific Ocean.

Fireballs of similar size are not uncommon events in Earth’s sky, far from it – a few dozen such events occur each year. But this meteorite was traveling at a very high speed and had an unusual trajectory. So scientists have already assumed the time when he came from interstellar space.

long research work

It was needed 8 long years From investigations to prove it. In fact, sensors on a US government satellite designed to monitor foreign missile launches were the only witnesses to the unusual ball of fire.

So it was a partnership between the US Department of Defense and NASA to analyze the data, which was finally shared on a public database hosted by Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) from Jet Propulsion Laboratory NASA itself, along with data on more than 900 other meteors recorded by US government sensors between 1988 and today, with dates, times, latitudes, longitudes, altitudes, velocities, 3D velocity components, and liberated energies.

My involvement in this meteorite dates back to April 2019 — wrote in Scientific American Amir Siraj, who co-authored the study — when my academic advisor at Harvard University, astrophysicist Avi Loeb, drew my attention to the CNEOS catalog. […]. Within days, it identified the 2014 Manus Isle fireball as one possible meteorite Interstellar

The team used the velocity of the impact along with knowledge of the kinetics of clusters of small bodies in the solar system to estimate the possibility that they came from elsewhere outside our solar system.

At the Earth’s distance from the Sun, any body moves at one At a speed of more than about 42 kilometers per second It’s in an infinite hyperbolic orbit with respect to our star – world shows – which means it’s too fast to be captured by the Sun’s gravity. Thus, anything beyond the local celestial velocity boundary can come from interstellar space (and if not obstructed it must return to).

The 2014 Manus Island meteorite indicated that the meteorite nearly hit the Earth’s atmosphere 45 kilometers per secondbut part of this velocity derives from the motion of the body with respect to the Earth and from the motion of the Earth around the Sun: it was therefore necessary to “analyze” the components of the velocity to understand whether the “real” element was in fact compatible with an interstellar origin.

Analyzing these effects with the help of computer programs I wrote, I found that the object passed the Earth from behind before it hit our atmosphere and may have had a relative velocity closer to the Sun. 60 kilometers per second Siraj continues – The corresponding orbit you calculated was clearly clear of the Sun, even if there was a great deal of uncertainty about the measurements. If the data is correct, this event would have been The first interstellar meteorite ever discovered

Also read: An interstellar Christmas comet is coming: Telescopes aimed at the sky on December 28

The comparison study was long and detailed, above all because the uncertainty about the data was really high, and thus the scientific community did not agree on the conclusions.

to be sure

Extraordinary allegations, of course, require extraordinary evidence

write the world

And it was. Several other astronomers decided to join the team to find the “Queen’s Evidence”.

It was only recently that scientists who worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense decided they wanted a clearer view. In particular, Matt Daniels read the first article on the 2014 meteor and wanted to help confirm its interstellar origin to the United States government.

After a year of grueling multi-level navigating the government bureaucracy – Siraj now announces – in March/April 2022, Daniels managed to get her official confirmation Written by Lieutenant General John Shaw, deputy commander of the US Space Force, and Joel Moser, chief scientist at Space Operations Command, then effectively confirm that the meteor was from A true interstellar origin

Consequences of interstellar nature

Its size suggests that each star would have to contribute a significant mass of similar objects over its lifetime to make the 2014 discovery likely, suggesting that there are many interstellar meteorites to be found. Its high speed relative to the average speeds of our nearby stars suggests that it may have been ejected from the depths of another planetary system relatively close to its star.

This is surprising – as the astronomer explains – because one would naively expect that most interstellar objects come from much farther circumstantial regions where escape velocities are lower, the clouds of comets located at the fringes of many star systems

future prospects

According to experts, the study of interstellar meteorites has a lot to tell us Our place in the universe. Additional investigations into the observed properties of the 2014 meteorite could reveal new insights into our local interstellar environment, especially when compared to those of their successors, Oumuamua and Borisov.

The meteorite databases are ready for further research, and there are new impulses to build new detection networks, with a focus on discovering interstellar meteors in the future.

Observing an interstellar meteor fire in real time will allow its composition to be studied, providing new insights into the chemistry of other planetary systems. Of course, the ideal would be to obtain a physical sample from an object that originated outside the solar system, a goal as bold as it is scientifically revolutionary.

The team is currently investigating whether a potential mission to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Manus Island could be useful in finding parts of the 2014 meteorite. In general, however, in general, any large enough interstellar meteorite discovered in the future should That being so produces a barrage of debris that can be tracked and analyzed.

The gates of the universe may open soon.

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sources: Scientific American / US Space Command / Twitter

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