Is a rare interstellar object hiding at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean?

An invaluable interstellar meteorite could settle on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean… but recovering it won’t be easy.

In 2014, a meteorite crashed over the Pacific Ocean. At least one part has survived, since CNEOS 2014-01-08 christening, from atmospheric re-entry; It ended its course in the water near Papua New Guinea … and researchers have not forgotten it. In a post spotted by Universe Today, they explained that they are even planning to release a Underwater expedition Put your hands on that rock.

You don’t need a scientific background to realize that the chances of finding a single object in the vast ocean expanse with little information are very small. But in this case, why allocate resources to a project that at first glance seems unreasonable and doomed to failure? To understand this, we must take a closer look at the nature of this object.

A potential interstellar visitor

In fact, the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the time estimated its speed at about 60 kilometers per second. A speed that seemed too great for a person from the solar system. So many astronomers suggested that it could be an interstellar object.

This term refers to all space adventurers who are not bound by the gravity of the star. They can be asteroids, comets, or even wandering planets; Anyway, these things are thus the actors of their own cosmic road movies, traveling the universe on their own.

If so, that would be quite exceptional news, because these visitors don’t scramble at the gate. In fact, so far, humanity has discovered only two such objects in our solar system, 1I/ʻOumuamua in 2017 and 2I/Borissov. So the object that fell into the Pacific Ocean would only be The third representative of this class ventures close to Earth.

An artist’s impression of Oumuamua, the first interstellar object observed in our cosmic neighborhood. © ESO / M. Kornmeiser

US defense maintains technical ambiguity

The problem is that this data, as it is, was not accurate enough to allow specialists to definitively remove the doubt. This is due above all to the fact that the statements in question came from a US Department of Defense satellite, an institution that has never concealed its apparent taste for technical obfuscation.

The performance of military satellites has traditionally been very important strategic elements; Armies protect them like the apple of their eyes. To avoid revealing too much information about their devices, federal authorities have therefore decided to only share snippets of data with researchers.

While waiting for a clearer view, the scientific community still refuses to officially assign the title of the interstellar object to CNEOS 2014-01-08. Partly for this reason, the paper by researchers who explored the possibility of this interstellar origin has yet to pass the peer-review pathway.

A submersible robot, like this one from Nauticus Robotics, could help researchers explore the ocean floor. © Nauticus Robotics Inc.

A scientific resource with incredible potential

Suffice it to say that the gray areas are numerous, and the chances of success are not really encouraging. But just the idea of ​​strength Physical study of the first documented interstellar object on Earth It is enough to put astronomers in all their states; It would be such an exceptional scientific resource that this possibility alone would justify the establishment of such an expedition.

This is no understatement. Because if it really was an interstellar object, it wasn’t just a piece of rock that specialists would hunt down. In essence, we will deal with the fact cosmic relicfull of information about the areas and phenomena thatNo one has ever had the opportunity to study closely. This is the kind of thing that alone can significantly advance our understanding of the universe and the dynamics of the universe.

© Casey Horner – Unsplash

And to search for this needle in a huge haystack, fortunately, specialists will not leave empty-handed. The data excerpts provided by the US Space Force enabled the search perimeter to be reduced to an area of ​​approximately 100 square kilometers; An area that’s still big, sure, but it’s restricted enough that there’s a not-so-low chance of finding a part.

Furthermore, researchers speculate that this object is magnetic; A property that can greatly facilitate its discovery, or even its restoration.

So it would be interesting to follow the progress of this research. Because if they succeed and that CNEOS 2014-01-08 is indeed an interstellar meteorite, it will certainly be an important discovery in the history of astronomy.

The research paper describing the mission project is available here.

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