Scientists are setting up a plan in order to try and recover the remains of an unidentified interstellar object that crashed off the coast of Papua New Guinea in 2014.
An unidentified interstellar object that originated in a distant star system struck the Earth in 2014. Finding out what it is and what it is made of is imperative, so scientists decided to try and find it at the bottom of the ocean.
Back in 2014, after traveling through the vastness of space, and cruising across our solar system, an interstellar object smashed through our atmosphere and crashed into the ocean not far from the coast of Papua New Guinea.
Data scientists had gathered at the time indicated that the meteorite just might be an interstellar object, based on the fact it possessed significant hyperbolic excess velocity.
If this is indeed true, then it would mean that the object at the bottom of the ocean is only the third-known interstellar object to humans, the first and second being ‘Oumuamua and Borisov.
In spite of the fact that finding it would be an extremely long shot, there would be enormous benefits for science if it were ever discovered.
The object, officially dubbed CNEOS 2014-01-08, was first discovered by Harvard professor Avi Loeb and Amir Siraj, a graduate student, in 2011. Based on the data they were able to gather, they concluded that the object measured about half a meter wide.
According to catalog data about the object’s trajectory, Siraj and Loeb found it was moving at speeds that suggested it wasn’t bound within our solar system since its heliocentric velocity was unusually high.
But the data is incomplete.
An Earth-monitoring spy satellite operated by the US Department of Defense provided data used to determine the object’s impact on Earth. To protect its precise capabilities, the US military keeps the exact error values of the measurement a closely guarded secret.
The scientific community, however, is understandably reluctant to classify CNEOS 2014-01-08 as an interstellar object without these details. After all, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. In light of this, Siraj and Loeb’s paper remains unpublished because peer review has not yet been completed.
Nevertheless, a review of the classified data in question conducted by the US Space Force’s Space Operations Command’s Chief Scientist, Joel Mozer, in April 2022 supported their claim.
6/ “I had the pleasure of signing a memo with @ussfspoc’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Mozer, to confirm that a previously-detected interstellar object was indeed an interstellar object, a confirmation that assisted the broader astronomical community.” pic.twitter.com/PGlIOnCSrW
— U.S. Space Command (@US_SpaceCom) April 7, 2022
Although the official scientific classification of CNEOS 2014-01-08 is still a mystery, for the time being, Siraj and Loeb have been convinced of its interstellar origin by the statement from the US Space Force and have moved on to consider possible ways to find and study the object.
In addition, scientists believe that most of the object would have disintegrated as it descended into Earth’s atmosphere, probably leaving only fragments on the ocean floor.
Despite this, there is still hope, as satellite tracking data, coupled with wind and ocean current data, can limit search areas to just ten kilometers by ten kilometers, Universe Today reports.
Further, scientists believe that the fragments could be magnetic, which means a ship trawling with a large magnet might be able to retrieve the minuscule fragments scattered across the ocean floor.
A consulting company specializing in ocean technology has joined forces with Siraj and Loeb to accomplish just that.
Throughout the past few years, Professor Loeb has expressed a belief that extraterrestrial intelligence may have created interstellar objects such as CNEOS 2014-01-08, ‘Oumuamua, and Borisov.
In his book Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth, Loeb offers great insight into why he believes objects like ‘Oumuamua may not be natural in origin.
A core area of his research is the search for intelligent life in the Universe as part of the Galileo Project. His claims on ‘Oumuamua, and how it may have been a spacecraft sent by another civilization have raised criticism among colleagues.
As revealed on its website, the Galileo Project seeks to make the search for extraterrestrial technological signatures of Extraterrestrial Technological Civilizations (ETCs) a mainstream scientific endeavor that is transparent, validated, and systematic rather than anecdotal and accidental.
But despite this, Professor Loeb continues his curious scientific journey trying to find out whether or not we are alone in the Universe.
Despite this, Loeb doesn’t treat CNEOS 2014-01-08 like an alien artifact.
According to his and Siraj’s most recent paper describing their expedition, “this result does not imply that a technological civilization artificially created the first interstellar meteor.”
In any case, it’s clear that Loeb believes getting a closer look at the object might not hurt.
Regardless of whether it’s just a rock – and not the remains of an alien spaceship – it’ll tell us a lot about rocky matter beyond our solar system, and that’s already useful information.
Hunting for new Interstellar objects is also important, and the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope will also be able to help astronomers. Not only by spotting them, but perhaps by even photographing what they look like, something we were unable to do with interstellar object ‘Oumuamua.
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