Israeli astronomer and partner identify first meteorite to hit Earth

An Israeli astronomer and his research partner have identified the first galaxy to hit Earth, the U.S. military has confirmed.

The Space Rock collided with our atmosphere off the coast of Papua New Guinea in 2014, and is the third known object to have entered our solar system from outside the Sun’s orbit.

Israeli Harvard astronomer Avi Lope and his research partner Amir Siraj determined that it came from outside our solar system in 2019, but could not confirm the discovery until this month.

Lope is a well-known and controversial astronomer who argues that another galaxy, an object called Oumuamua that passed the sun in 2017, may have been created by an alien civilization.

Scientists have identified a comet that came into our environment from another solar system, which made the 2014 meteorite the third known galaxy, and the first object to hit Earth. Meteors are relatively small celestial objects made of rock and metal that enter the Earth’s atmosphere.

Until the U.S. military confirms their decision, Lope and Siraj met with suspicion when they announced their discovery.

The U.S. Space Command, part of the U.S. Department of Defense, is headed by its Deputy Commander John E. Shaw and chief scientist Joel Moser confirmed that “the object between the previously discovered galaxies is actually a galaxy object.”

The data “confirm that the speed estimate reported to NASA is accurate enough to indicate a galaxy orbit.”

To confirm the discovery of Lope and Siraj, space command scientists analyzed additional data and provided its results to NASA and the European Space Agency. The Space Command is responsible for US military operations in space and monitors space objects that could threaten Earth.

NASA has denied the Space Command’s confirmation of the meteorite, saying that “the short duration of the data collected is less than five seconds, making it difficult to determine with certainty whether the object’s origin actually exists between galaxies.”

This meteorite, known as CNEOS 2014-01-08, was the size of a dishwasher and flew into our atmosphere on January 8, 2014 near Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.

Siraj wrote in Scientific American this week that data on the meteorite was collected that the US government was designed to detect satellite launches.

Siraj was a bachelor’s graduate at Harvard at the time of the discovery, and Lope acted as his advisor. While the two were studying Oumuamua, they began searching for other galaxy objects and soon found data about the meteorite.

Perseid meteor shower seen on August 12, 2016 in Morganel, Spain. (AP Photo / Manu Fernandez)

Dozens of similar meteors hit Earth every year, but it travels exceptionally fast and comes from an unusual direction, indicating that it came from outside our solar system, Siraj said.

The meteorite traveled in an “unbuilt orbit”, while other meteorites traveled in a closed orbit around the sun. Before hitting Earth, the meter traveled at a speed of about 60 kilometers (37 miles) per second, much faster than other meteorites.

Lope and Siraj produced a thesis on their findings and submitted it to a co-reviewed publication, but the press rejected the research, claiming it relied on confidential information. Some information from the US government has been kept secret for security reasons. The couple said at the time they were 99.999% confident in their results.

Israeli Harvard scientist Avi Lope. (Screenshot / YouTube)

They were then approached by a security officer who was able to obtain confirmation from the official security department of the discovery.

It is the third galactic object to be found in our solar system after Omumuwa and the Prozov comet in 2019, none of which have hit Earth. Comets are small objects made of ice, dust and rock particles; Asteroids are very large bodies made of rock and metal.

Siraj said his and Lopin’s discoveries about the galaxy indicate that there are many more such objects. Its speed, he said, could have come from “deeper into another planetary system,” which was found to be closer to the star of that system, as opposed to the edge of another system.

Researchers are exploring the possibility of retrieving meteorite fragments from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, calling a body model the “Holy Grail of Interstellar Material Studies”. The meteorite broke as soon as it entered our atmosphere.

Lope was the longest-serving head of the Department of Astronomy at Harvard, where he served from 2011-2020, and is currently a professor of science at the university.

Related: Israeli Harvard astronomer has inseparable interest in interstellar research

Oumuamua, who observed the Sun crossing from outside the Solar System in 2017, gained public prominence after confirming that it may have been a paradoxical object, an extraterrestrial artifact.

As astronomers in Hawaii moved away from the sun and moved irregularly, they only saw an object called Omuvamua, which means “scout” in Hawaiian. The strangely shaped body is the first interstellar object to be found in our solar system. It was small, less than 1 km long, dark red in color and shaped like a cigar or pancake.

An artist’s look at the interstellar asteroid Oumuamua. Scientist Avi Lope believes it could have been an extraterrestrial artifact. (Courtesy / European Southern Observatory, M. Cornmesser)

Lope argued that Omuwamuwa could have been an extraterrestrial artifact, i.e. a solar-powered light boat or a communications food item. Most astronomers believe this is a natural origin, but there are differences of opinion as to what it is, or where it came from.

He launched the Galileo project last year, an attempt to systematically search for physical artifacts made by “extraterrestrial technological civilizations.” Earlier projects, such as the SETI Institute, searched the universe for electromagnetic signals, not objects.

The Galileo project aims to identify unidentified aerial phenomena and “Oumuamua-like galaxies” through scientific analysis of data collected by sophisticated instruments. The panel said the data and analysis process would be transparent and open to the public.

Siraj is now the director of interstellar object studies for the Galileo project, and said this week the team has received funding to research a possible “spacecraft encounter” with a galaxy object to extract the physics model.

Loeb is from Pettah Hanan’s Mosha in central Israel, served in the prestigious Dolbyot program of the Israel Defense Forces and received his first degree from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

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