The Israeli native and Harvard science professor Aveleb’s 60th birthday this June was a sign of celebration and defense.
For the past three years, renowned but controversial theoretical physicist Loeb and his assistant Amir Siraj have been trying to publish a report on the mysterious, half-meter-sized meteor that crashed in Papua New Guinea in 2014. paper. Loeb and Siraj claim it to be the first recorded object of interstellar origin.
Their paper was rejected, Siraj wrote in a recent Scientific American article, because he and Loeb were the first to understand that the government database of meteors did not include measurements of uncertainty — that is, in its measurement of meteors. Estimated margin of error in the calculation. This paper has been posted to arXiv, a non-peer-reviewed website for scholarly articles.
The pair later received supporting data from two Los Alamos scientists and the anonymous analyst who originally tracked the meteor. But this does not represent an official government confirmation of interstellar origins. Spring has finally arrived this year, and in an April 6 tweet by U.S. Space Command, the meteor was added to a very short list of three verified interstellar objects, joining Comet Borisov and 2017 headliners News of the celestial body “Oumuamua, Hawaiian for “traveler,” Loeb hypothesized not only interstellar technology, but possibly extraterrestrial technology.
“I was very confident from the beginning,” Loeb told The Times of Israel about Meteor. “The reviewers of the paper were skeptical. With [Space Command memo]the government said it was 99.999% based on all the data it had [confirmed]. “
In multiple papers, he has expressed excitement about the possibility of discovering interstellar objects—objects from regions of space other than the solar wind caused by the sun.
“The most fundamental question,” he wrote in an April 13 Medium article, “is there any interstellar meteors that might suggest that their composition is clearly man-made in origin? Better yet, some technological components will Survive the onslaught. My dream is to push some buttons on functional devices made off Earth.”
It’s fair to say that over the years, Loeb has pushed some buttons – metaphorically speaking – in the scientific community. His critics include Simon Devin, a professor of theoretical astrophysics at the University of Sheffield, who adjusted Loeb’s comments on “Oumuamua” in an article for The Conversation last year. Goodwin laments that a maverick scientist may come up with an alien explanation for the mysterious phenomenon, and suggests a well-tested trio: Occam’s razor, the peer-review process, and the adage “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” “.
Although Loeb is on sabbatical from Harvard, he’s still going full steam ahead, hoping to travel to Papua New Guinea to search the ocean floor for traces of the 2014 meteor. He wondered if the meteor also represented technology beyond Earth.
As Siraj explained in his Scientific American article, published six days after the Space Command tweeted, “The holy grail of interstellar object research will be to obtain physical samples of objects from extrasolar – The goal is bold because it is scientifically groundbreaking.”
The discovery enlivened what Loeb called the most productive period of his career, the first time he took a sabbatical in nearly 20 years after stepping down as chair of Harvard’s astronomy department in 2020.
While away from academia, Loeb published a textbook, “Life in the Universe,” and “Aliens: The First Signs of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth,” a best-selling nonfiction about “Oumuamua.” , has been translated into 25 languages. He also released NFTs while writing another book and a documentary. He continued to publish op-eds and scientific papers, and received multiple interview requests (he used to do 12 a day). And he didn’t miss Harvard entirely. As head of Project Galileo, he was responsible for installing a telescope system on top of the Harvard Observatory to search for unidentified aerial phenomena, or, if you prefer the more popular term, UFOs.
“It would be arrogant if we were relaxing on the couch at home and asking, ‘Where is everyone?’. Not looking through our windows to find any neighbors,” Loeb told Congress the day before on May 18. UAP’s reflection on the hearing wrote, while also expressing hope that Project Galileo could help the government’s investigation within a year or two.
He told The Times of Israel that he regretted not being in the classroom — “of course, teaching young people is always a joy” — but added, “I really enjoy the creative work I do in research and writing, speaking about Something new. When you teach a class, it’s about something that’s already in the textbook, already known. I prefer to find something new.”
Loeb did just that in 2019, when he learned about the now-famous Meteor from five years ago while preparing for one of his many interviews—on a New York radio station.
He asked his assistant Siraj — then an undergraduate at Harvard — to check a database called CNEOS for the fastest-moving objects that might have originated outside our solar system. The database is compiled by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Siraj found that on January 8, 2014, one such object crashed into the Pacific Ocean near New Guinea. Two items in the data look unusual. The extrasolar speed was about 40 kilometers per second (25 miles) per second, and the meteor accelerated as it passed through the solar system at about 60 kilometers per second (37 miles) — about 134,000 miles per hour.
“It’s moving so fast,” Loeb wrote in a March 10 Medium post, “presumably its past trajectory has nothing to do with the sun.”
The speed of 60 kilometers per second is twice the speed at which most stars move relative to the vicinity of the Sun, ruling out the possibility of these stars as origins of meteors, Loeb said. At the same time, Meteor’s composition appears to be harder than iron. Meteors composed of iron are rare, accounting for only 5 percent of all known space rocks.
“We decided to write a paper about this being the first interstellar meteor,” Loeb said. “It predates the discovery of ‘Oumuamua by almost four years in 2017.”
It is important to note that the government cannot publish uncertainty measurements associated with objects detected by spy satellites in the database.
Because of this, Loeb said, his and Siraj’s paper “has not been accepted by publishers who do not trust the government, nor have access to the actual data and uncertainty that the government uses. [measurements] in the data. “
He lamented that scientists were “very skeptical of data coming from governments, distrusting governments, saying we should only focus on studying rocks within the solar system…which is clearly something from outside the solar system. We’re not members of a club of experts talking about space rocks. They are not allowed to publish.”
Loeb explained that if the government publishes error bars, “it will illustrate the quality of [satellite] The sensor is part of a missile warning system.If they were to report exact data, it could allow hostile nations to figure out where the US is [satellites are]. “
He tried to verify government data. Some proof later in 2019. With the help of two Los Alamos officials, Alan Hurd and Matt Heavner, and Trump’s White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Loeb was able to obtain raw measurements of uncertainty about the meteor, which he said confirmed his findings at 99.999 percent. .
Finally, on April 6 this year, Space Command tweeted a memo to NASA from Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. John Shaw, formally confirming the findings of Loeb and Siraj.
“We went through a variety of people before US Space Command sent a letter to NASA,” Loeb said of the memo. “Based on the data they have, it confirms that the object came from outside the solar system.”
A Harvard Gazette article cited a three-year delay in “bureaucratic deadlock” and attributed the breakthrough to White House Science and Technology Office official Matt Daniels, assistant director of space security. The article also quotes Siraj as saying that he and Loeb hope that peer-reviewed journals will eventually publish their paper.
Loeb is willing to make an additional suggestion about the meteor — which could represent alien technology — and he also hypothesized about “Oumuamua.” Even if the meteor wasn’t, he wanted to look for evidence of a collision on the seabed.
“We wanted to figure out what it was made of,” he said. “Even if it’s a natural object, like natural iron, it probably doesn’t have the exact same elements that we find in our solar system.”
“We can learn about other environments by examining composition,” Loeb added. “Even if it’s natural, it’s going to be very interesting to figure out.”
Noting the historical precedent that would be set, he reflected, “Imagine new horizons.”