Harvard University scientists leading an expedition in the Pacific Ocean have recovered metallic spheres from what they believe to be the remnants of the first recognized interstellar meteor to impact Earth. Astrophysicist Avi Loeb and researcher Amir Siraj led the team that collected 50 small metallic spheres that do not match any known alloys in the solar system. The composition of the particles, according to the scientists, is anomalous and suggests an artificial origin.
The discovery was made last week off the coast of Manus, Papua New Guinea. The expedition’s findings were shared with the Daily Mail, with Avi Loeb explaining that the unique composition of the recovered particles indicates they may be remnants of chemically propelled interstellar spacecraft.
The interstellar object in question impacted Earth in the western Pacific in January 2014. Although it was too small to be detected by telescopes, it generated a bright fireball recorded by U.S. government sensors. Loeb and Siraj published a paper in 2019 confirming the interstellar origin of the object, and a memo from U.S. Space Command to NASA in March 2022 confirmed their findings. The object has since been referred to as “Interstellar Meteor 1” or IM1.
Analysis conducted at the University of California-Berkeley revealed that the fragments retrieved by the expedition were primarily composed of iron, the principal element found in tough natural meteors. IM1 withstood four times the pressure that would typically destroy a regular iron-metal meteor, as it entered Earth’s atmosphere at a remarkable speed of 100,215 mph.
Avi Loeb noted in a summary of the expedition that the excess speed of IM1 and its durability raise the possibility that it may have been of technological origin, comparable to NASA’s New Horizons craft colliding with an exoplanet in the future and burning up as an interstellar meteor in its atmosphere. An exoplanet refers to a planet outside our solar system.
Amir Siraj emphasized the importance of continuing to explore the search for extraterrestrial life, stating that being open to possibilities is crucial for making new discoveries. The recovered interstellar meteor fragments provide another intriguing piece of evidence in the ongoing quest to unravel the mysteries of our universe.
Further analysis and examination of the particles will undoubtedly be conducted, as scientists strive to gain a deeper understanding of the origins and nature of these unique interstellar fragments.