A research group from the USA wants to recover the remains of the first observed interstellar object, which fell to Earth in August 2014. The group led by astrophysicist Amir Siraj is convinced that they narrowed down the impact site of the meteorite to an area of 10 km × 10 km in the Bismarck Sea on the edge of the Pacific. Because they believe the object should be magnetic, they expect to be able to find and recover it within ten days with a systematic search using a special sled.
Expedition in preparation
The analysis of the first interstellar meteorite promises important insights into our cosmic neighborhood. In any case, the expedition to Papua New Guinea to salvage the smallest fragments is already being planned.
The object, designated CNEOS 2014-01-08, fell to Earth in 2014 and was observed by automatic surveillance systems. Siraj had discovered the impact in a NASA meteorite database. The immense speed of 200,000 kilometers per hour was the decisive indication that the meteorite should not have originated in the solar system.
However, the scientific work on the discovery has been waiting for publication for years: because some of the sensors used to automatically detect meteorites and fireballs belong to the US military and are also used to search for nuclear detonations, the data collected is secret. The US military only confirmed the find in April, making further research possible.
Of immense scientific value
Should fragments of the meteorite actually exist, their scientific value would be immeasurable. It would be the first material from outside our solar system that could be analyzed directly. Actually, CNEOS 2014-01-08 is only the third interstellar object to be discovered in the solar system, but it hit years before the transits of 2I/Borisov and ʻOumuamua.
Together with the oceanographer Timothy Gallaudet, Siraj and his professor Avi Loeb determined that the meteorite must have fallen into the Bismarck Sea about 300 km north of the island of Manus. The sea is about 1.7 km deep there. With the magnetic sled they want to recover fragments that are only 0.1 mm in size. The group has submitted an explanation of their plan to the Journal of Astronomical Instrumentation, but it has not yet been independently verified.
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