Melted fragments of an interstellar object that fell to Earth in 2014 were found at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, says Harvard University professor Avi Loeb, known for his extravagant theories about extraterrestrial civilizations. He discovered fifty microscopic particles during an expedition off the coast of Papua New Guinea.
Astronomers know two facts of the arrival of objects from interstellar space into the solar system. These are the asteroid Oumuamua, which flew up to the Sun in 2017 and made a lot of noise in the scientific community, and the Borisov comet discovered in 2019 by a Crimean astronomer.
However, a few years ago, Professor Loeb, who suggested that Oumuamua had an artificial origin, stated that another object had fallen to Earth earlier, having flown into the solar system from interstellar space – CNEOS 2014 ( IM1 ).
The scientist was prompted to this idea by its unusually high speed, which exceeded 200 thousand km / h. This was also indicated by the fact that the fireball exploded near Manus Island (Papua New Guinea) on January 8, 2014 at a fairly low altitude, which is not typical for usual fireballs and indicates the high strength of its substance.
In 2022, representatives of the US Department of Defense, relying on data from their airspace control equipment, confirmed that the parameters of the fireball’s entry into the atmosphere indicate its interstellar nature.
In June 2023, Loeb organized an expedition on the Silver Star ship to the place of the alleged flight of the fireball wreckage, which searched for them for two weeks using a powerful magnet that descended from the side of the ship on the move. The cost of the expedition was $1.5 million and thanks to accurate calculations, the search area was narrowed down to just one square mile.
In his blog, Loeb said that the expedition turned out to be “historic” and extremely successful – on the path of the alleged expansion of debris, the magnet attracted several dozen melted metal balls a fraction of a millimeter in size, scattered during the explosion of the fireball in the atmosphere.
“We drank champagne aboard Silver Star for finding 50 spheres with a total mass of 35 milligrams close to the path of the first recognized interstellar meteorite,” the scientist wrote in his blog.“ In the coming weeks, we will analyze their elemental and isotopic composition and report it in a peer-reviewed journal.”
During the expedition, the ship made several passes with a magnet along the supposed place where the debris fell, and most of the finds were made inside the computational area, much more than at the control points. For example, during the 8th pass, 10 spheres out of 31 were found by that time.
Future research will show whether this object is indeed something that could be described as “the first extraterrestrial object” we have in our hands.
Loeb remains optimistic. The team plans to take the orbs to the Harvard College Observatory, where they will use spectrometry to identify the isotopes in them – by analyzing their ratios relative to other meteorites, Loeb hopes to test whether IM1 really had an interstellar origin. Alternatively, he suggests, he could confirm that it was not created – but was, possibly by intelligent extraterrestrials.
In any case, Loeb thinks it doesn’t hurt to do a little more research on the find.
On this, his team agrees – as long as the correct scientific procedure is followed. “Science is wonderful in that it’s one of the most forgiving human institutions there is,” he says. “Any scientist can propose any hypothesis and any other scientist can test that hypothesis … everybody learns something new and progress is made toward the truth of the matter … We’ll see how that goes in this particular case in the future.”