A Harvard team led by professor Avi Loeb has retrieved some materials from a 2014 meteor that crashed into the ocean near Papua New Guinea. They suspect that these materials could be remnants of alien technology from another star system, reports cbsnews.com.
The team got the permission and the coordinates from the U.S. Space Command, which had detected the interstellar origin of the meteor with 99.999% confidence. The search area was about 10 km (6.2 mile) wide, roughly the size of Boston.
“We used the time difference between the light flash and the sound boom of the explosion to estimate how far the meteor traveled in the atmosphere,” Loeb explained, “That gave us a possible trajectory that matched the government’s data.”
The team rented a boat called the Silver Star and sailed along the projected path of the meteor. They dragged a sled with magnets attached to it behind the boat, hoping to catch any metallic fragments from the ocean floor.
“We found ten spherules. These are almost perfect spheres, or metallic marbles. When you look at them through a microscope, they look very distinct from the background,” explained Loeb, “They have colors of gold, blue, brown and some of them resemble a miniature of the Earth.”
Their composition analysis showed that the spherules are made of 84% iron, 8% silicon, 4% magnesium and 2% titanium, plus trace elements. They are sub-millimeter in size. The crew found 50 of them in total.
“It has material strength that is tougher than all space rock that were seen before, and catalogued by NASA,” added Loeb, “We calculated its speed outside the solar system. It was 60 km per second, which is faster than 95% of all stars in the vicinity of the sun. The fact that it was made of materials tougher than even iron meteorites, and moving faster than 95% of all stars in the vicinity of the sun, suggested potentially it could be a spacecraft from another civilization, or some technological gadget.”
He likens the situation to any of the Voyager spacecrafts launched by NASA.
“They will exit the solar system in 10,000 years. Just imagine them colliding with another planet far away a billion years from now. They would appear as a meteor of a composition moving faster than usual,” explained Loeb.
The research and analysis is just beginning at Harvard. Loeb is trying to understand if the spherules are artificial or natural.
“It will take us tens of thousands of years to exit our solar system with our current spacecraft to another star. This material spent that time arriving to us, but it’s already here,” smiled Loeb, “We just need to check our backyard to see if we have packages from an interstellar Amazon that takes billions of years for the travel.”
“They also help us pinpoint any big piece of the meteor we could find in a future expedition,” details Loeb, “We hope to find a big piece of this object that survived the impact because then we can tell if it’s a rock or technological gadget.”
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