The finds consisted of 50 spherules, small globes of material just a few millimeters in diameter.
A Harvard University physics professor has just completed a two-week project to dredge the depths of the Pacific Ocean in search of the remains of the first confirmed interstellar object to fall to Earth, an object that he hypothesizes could be a form of alien technology.
Professor Avi Loeb, famous for his 2017 stance that the strange interstellar object ʻOumuamua could be an Earth-passing extraterrestrial object, announced that his research team has concluded their $1.5 million expedition and has collected 35 milligrams of material. promising.
Those finds consisted of 50 spherules, tiny globs of material just a few millimeters in diameter that characteristically break off from meteorites as they enter and burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.
The team collected the spherules by dragging a large magnetic sled across the ocean floor off the coast of Papua New Guinea. “Like molten blobs from a fireball, they carry information about the elemental and isotopic composition of the first recognized interstellar meteorite,” Loeb wrote Tuesday on his Medium blog about the project.
Loeb and his crew were searching for the remains of CNEOS 2014-01-08, a meteorite that fell to Earth in 2014 and was picked up by US government sensors and recorded by NASA.
After finding the record, Loeb concluded that the object’s impact velocity and unusual angle of entry suggested it might be from a solar system outside our own. He was also bothered by the fact that the object didn’t fall apart until it reached Earth’s lower atmosphere, suggesting that it was made of something substantially stronger than almost anything ever recorded.
When Loeb published a paper suggesting there was a 99.999% chance the object was interstellar, US Space Command and the Department of Defense agreed with the findings and it was renamed IM1.
The designation meant that IM1’s arrival predated ʻOumuamua, previously considered the first observed interstellar object to enter the solar system, by three years.
Loeb hypothesized that IM1’s unique characteristics and its interstellar origins opened up the possibility that it was a piece of extraterrestrial technology, something that could not be determined unless the remains were collected and studied.
“Given the high speed and anomalous strength of the IM1 material, its origin must have been a different natural environment from the solar system, or an extraterrestrial technological civilization,” Loeb wrote on his blog. With the help of the US military, Loeb and his team reduced the likelihood of IM1 falling to an area of less than one square mile. The team then traveled to the location off Papua New Guinea on June 14 and began dragging the deep-sea magnetic sled repeatedly across the ocean floor.
During the search, they found a number of metal wire-like fragments and metal fragments with unusual properties and origins that will remain undetermined without further study. But most promising of all were the 50 spherules they collected during the last seven days of the expedition.
Many of those fragments were composed of magnesium, titanium, and iron, a highly unusual combination of elements for terrestrial and local celestial objects that Leob hopes is the kind of unequivocal indicator that they came from IM1.
“The spherules were found primarily along the most likely pathway of IM1 and not in remote control regions,” Loeb wrote on his blog. “In the coming weeks, we will analyze its elemental and isotopic composition and report our data in a paper submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.”
“In response to the naysayers, we say nothing more than show our data in our first post. You cannot argue with facts, only with interpretations.”