The astronomical community was enthralled by the discovery of ‘Omuamua’ in 2017, the first interstellar object to be identified. However, it turns out that this mysterious object was not technically the first. After the release of previously classified data by the US government, scientists are almost certain that an object from another solar system crashed into the Earth’s atmosphere in 2014, reports Vice. This suggests that if we look closely enough, we can find these visitors from afar.
The work was started by Harvard University astronomers Amir Siraj and Avi Loeb following the discovery of ‘Omuamua’. Loeb, who famously claimed that ‘Omuamua could be a part of alien technology’, suggested that Siraj look to see if an interstellar object could be attributed through the Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNES) database. This database contains more than 1,000 effects and fireball records, but in 2014 one was stuck near Manus Island. The object was small, only a few feet across, but CNEOS data show it was traveling at speeds of at least 130,000 miles per hour when it crashed over the South Pacific Ocean. Nothing can move so fast from our wooden neck.
A paper from the Manus event hit the preprint arXiv server in 2019, but due to some missing official data it was never peer-reviewed or officially released. Some sensors on the CNEOS network that detect atmospheric fireballs are operated by the U.S. Department of Defense for the purpose of detecting a nuclear explosion. The information obtained from these sensors is thought to be classified, which prevents Siraj from verifying the velocity margin of the manus fireball.
6 / “I had the pleasure of signing a memo ussfspocThe chief scientist said. Mozar, to confirm that a previously identified interstellar object was in fact an interstellar object, a confirmation that helped the larger astronomical community. ” pic.twitter.com/PGlIOnCSrW
– US Space Command (US_SpaceCom) April 7, 2022
The work was uncertain until just a few weeks ago when US Space Command issued a statement confirming the velocity estimate, saying it was “accurate enough to indicate an interstellar orbit.” Siraj, now head of interstellar object studies at the Galileo project at Harvard, is working to publish the study.
We do not know much about the object, except that it disintegrates into the atmosphere after many light years have flowed through deep space. This is what sets it apart from ‘Omuamua and the recently discovered comet Borisov – it is already on Earth. True, this can be bypassed-but not unless you’re a techie who knows what he’s doing.
The possibility of rescuing any meteorite is remote, but it would be difficult to overstate the scientific value of such a discovery. It could also point to a future where more interstellar objects were discovered because they were illuminated in the Earth’s atmosphere. If we go looking for it, these foreign pieces may not be as rare as we think.