The controversial theoretical physicist Abraham “Avi” Loeb, who holds the Frank B. Baird Jr. Chair of Science at Harvard University, publishes, together with his student and colleague, Amir Siraj, a new investigation about the discovery of the second interstellar meteorite that, he claims, could be proof of the existence of other civilizations.
on the hunt for the alien
The first interstellar meteor, named CNEOS 2014-01-08 (IM1), was discovered in 2019 and was confirmed with a confidence level of 99.999% by a letter from the United States Space Command to NASA. Also known as CNEOS1 2014-01-08 , the object had an estimated diameter of 0.45 meters, a mass of 460 kg, and a pre-impact speed of 60 km per second.
“IM1, detected by US Department of Defense (DoD) sensors through the light it emitted as it burned up in Earth’s atmosphere off the coast of Papua New Guinea in 2014, was determined to be an object interstellar in 2019, a conclusion confirmed by an independent analysis conducted by the Department of Defense in 2022,” the Harvard University researchers explained. “The object predates interstellar object ‘Oumuamua by 3.8 years, and interstellar object 2I/Borisov by 5.6 years.”
Now, they seem to have identified IM2, in NASA’s CNEOS Fireball Catalog or CNEOS 2017-03-09, recognized in CNEOS Fireball Catalog data. The object was detected on March 9, 2017, at an altitude of 23 km above the Atlantic Ocean near Portugal. It was about a meter in size, 10 times more massive than IM1, and was moving at a speed of 40 km per second.
Harder than iron meteorites
“ IM1 and IM2 rank 1st and 3rd in terms of material strength out of the 273 fireballs in the CNEOS catalogue. This implies that interstellar meteors come from a population with a characteristically higher material strength than meteors that originate within the solar system”, comment the experts regarding the resistance of the material of IM1 and IM2 with that of other CNEOS objects.
“Furthermore, we find that if the two objects are representative of a background population on random trajectories, their combined detections imply that about 40% of all refractory elements are locked in meter-scale interstellar objects. Such a high abundance apparently challenges the origin of a planetary system. We assume that IM1 and IM2 are composed of refractory elements, although the resistance of their materials implies that they were mainly of metallic composition”, they point out.
As they conclude in their study, since supernovae are known to produce iron-rich ‘bullets’, this could be the possible origin of both IM1 and IM2.
Loeb points out that it is crucial to determine the composition and structure of the remains of these interstellar meteors, which is why he has announced two expeditions for both fragments: the first near Papua New Guinea and the second near Portugal.
Referencia: Amir Siraj & Abraham Loeb. 2022. Interstellar Meteors are Outliers in Material Strength. ApJL, submitted for publication; arXiv: 2209.09905