The US Space Command confirms that an interstellar meteor has hit Earth
The US Space Command announced this week that it had determined that a 2014 meteorite hit that hit Earth came from outside the solar system. The meteor crossed the sky off the coast of Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, three years before what was believed to be the first confirmed interstellar object detected entering our solar system.
Dr. Amir Siraj and Dr. Abraham Loeb of Harvard University’s Department of Astronomy wrote an article on the meteor, states the United States Space Command. However, the scientists found it difficult to publish a document because they used confidential government information.
A U.S. government classified satellite designed to detect foreign missiles witnessed the fireball, writes Siraj in Scientific American Magazine. The meteor was unusual due to its very high speed and unusual direction, suggesting that it came from interstellar space.
The meter-sized rock swept across the sky and rained debris into the depths of the Pacific Ocean, and the Department of Defense and NASA have added the meteor to a public database. Siraj said the database, which contains information for more than 900 other fireballs recorded between 1988 and today, has caught his attention.
Researchers originally believed thatdetected in our solar system was discovered in October 2017. That object, , it was exiting the solar system when it was discovered, so researchers didn’t have much time to study it. It has been described as a “giant pink fire extinguisher” and was spotted by the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii.
Siraj and Loeb were about eight months in their ‘Oumuamua study, but realized after a few days of database observation, the 2014 Isle of Manus fireball could be an earlier interstellar meteor.
Any space object traveling at more than about 42 kilometers per second can come from interstellar space. The data showed that the 2014 Manus Island fireball hit Earth’s atmosphere at about 45 kilometers per second, which was “very promising” in identifying it as interstellar, Siraj said.
After further research and the help of other scientists, including confidential government information about the accuracy or level of accuracy of the data, Siraj and Loeb determined with 99.999% certainty that the object was interstellar. But their discovery paper was dismissed, because the couple only had a private conversation with an unnamed U.S. government employee to confirm the accuracy of the data.
However, their newspaper ended up in the right hands. Matt Daniels, who at the time worked for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, read the document and helped researchers obtain a official confirmation by the government.
Lieutenant General John Shaw, deputy commander of the US Space Force, and Joel Mozer, chief scientist of the branch’s Space Operations Command wrote a letter to a NASA scientist confirming the findings of Siraj and Loeb.
“Three years after our original discovery, the first object from outside the solar system observed to hit the Earth, the first known interstellar meteor, has been officially recognized,” writes Siraj. He and Loeb are resubmitting the document for publication now that the discovery has been officially confirmed, he told CBS News via email.
Thedetected in our solar system was discovered by the MARGO observatory in Crimea, Ukraine, in 2019. It was later named “2I / Borisov” in honor of the amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov who built the telescope himself and observed the comet .