Astronomers are planning a fishing trip to land an alien invader: A small meteorite from another star system crashed into the Pacific Ocean with an energy equivalent to about 121 tons (110 metric tons) of TNT.
The team from Harvard hopes to find fragments of the interstellar rock, known as CNEOS 2014-01-08 Earth January 8, 2014.
“Finding such a fragment would represent the first time humans have come into contact with something larger than dust. solar systemAmir Siraj, an astrophysicist at Harvard University and lead author of a new paper published on a non-peer-reviewed preprint service ArXiv (opens in new tab) On CNEOS 2014-01-08, told Live Science in an email.
Siraj identified the object’s interstellar origin in 2019 study (opens in new tab) 99.999% confident, but US Space Command won’t confirm to Siraj until May 2022. There are no known witnesses to the object hitting Earth.
“It hit the atmosphere about a hundred miles [160 kilometers] Off the coast of Papua New Guinea in the middle of the night, about 1% energy Hiroshima bomb‘ said Siraj.
related: What are the largest craters on Earth?
Measuring just 1.5 feet (0.5 m) wide, CNEOS 2014-01-08 now appears to be the first interstellar object discovered in our solar system.
Previously, a rectangular object was called ‘Oumuamua hold this title.Discovered in the Pan-STARRS Sky Survey in 2017, the space rock was traveling through our solar system at nearly 57,000 mph (92,000 km/h), Siraj’s colleague, Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb later claimed it may be alien machineThe discovery of ‘Oumuamua was followed by 2019’s Comet 2I/Borisov, the first interstellar comet, discovered by amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov in Crimea.
CNEOS 2014-01-08 is believed to come from another star system because it travels at 37.2 miles per second (60 kilometers per second) relative to sun. too fast for it to be bound by the sun gravity.
“At the distance between the earth and the sun, any object with a speed of more than 42 kilometers per second [26 miles per second] It is on an unbounded hyperbolic escape orbit relative to the sun,” Siraj said. “This means that CNEOS 2014-01-08 clearly exceeds the bound object’s local speed limit. [and] It didn’t intersect any other planets along the way, so it must have originated outside the solar system. “
Cut to Siraj and Loeb’s Galileo project, a $1.6 million expedition to lower a magnet the size of a king-size bed at the site where the US Department of Defense placed a meteorite at 1.3 degrees south latitude and 147.6 degrees east longitude. That’s about 186 miles (300 kilometers) north of Manus Island in the Bismarck Sea in the Pacific Southwest.
According to Siraj, the material strength of CNEOS 2014-01-08 greatly exceeds that of typical iron meteorites, which should make it easier to recover. Material strength refers to how easily an object resists deformation or damage from a load. “Most meteorites contain enough iron that they stick to the kind of magnets we plan to use for ocean expeditions,” he said. “Given its extremely high material strength, the fragments of CNEOS 2014-01-08 are likely ferromagnetic.”
Departing from Papua New Guinea, Project Galileo’s boat will use magnetic sleds on longline winches and will be towed along the seabed at 1 mile (1.7 km) for 10 days. The hope is that the magnets can recover tiny fragments of meteorites, as small as 0.004 inches (0.1 millimeters) in diameter.
However, it is unclear when astronomers will be able to conduct the expedition. Project Galileo has already committed $500,000 and needs another $1.1 million to make it a reality. That’s valuable compared to space missions, according to Siraj.
“Another way to study interstellar objects up close is to send space missions to objects that pass near Earth in the future,” Siraj said, if another object like ‘Oumuamua appeared in the solar system. “But it’s going to be 1,000 times more expensive, about $1 billion.”
Originally published on Live Science.