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

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A priceless interstellar meteorite may be at the bottom of the Pacific… but retrieving it won’t be easy. In 2014, a meteor crashed over the Pacific Ocean. At least one fragment, since named CNEOS on 2014-01-08, survived atmospheric reentry; ran out of water near Papua New Guinea… and researchers haven’t forgotten. In a publication discovered by Universe Today, they explain that they even plan to launch an underwater expedition to get their hands on this rock. It doesn’t take a scientific background to realize that the chances of finding a solitary object in the vastness of the ocean with little information are extremely slim. But in this case, why devote resources to a project that, at first glance, seems unreasonable and doomed to failure? To understand this, we need to look more closely at the nature of this object. A potential interstellar visitor In fact, the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) had estimated its speed at the time at about 60 kilometers per second; a speed that seemed too great for anyone in the solar system. Therefore, several astronomers have suggested that it could be an interstellar object. This term refers to all space adventurers who are not gravitationally bound to a star. They can be asteroids, comets or even wandering planets; in any case, these objects are, therefore, the actors of their own cosmic road movies, and they travel alone through the universe. If so, that would be pretty exceptional news, because these visitors aren’t banging on the door. In fact, so far, humanity has detected only two such objects in our solar system, namely 1I/ʻOumuamua in 2017 and 2I/Borissov. The object that fell in the Pacific would, therefore, be only the third representative of this category to venture so close to the Earth. Artist’s impression of Oumuamua, the first interstellar object detected in our cosmic neighborhood. © ESO/M. Kornmesser American Defense maintains artistic vagueness. The problem is that, as it stands, this data was not precise enough to allow the specialists to definitively eliminate the doubt. It is mainly because the readings in question came from a satellite of the American Department of Defense, an institution that has never hidden its marked taste for artistic vagueness. The performance of military satellites has traditionally been very important strategic elements; armies protect them like the apple of their eye. To avoid revealing too much information about his machine, federal authorities have therefore decided to share only snippets of data with investigators. And while waiting to see it more clearly, the scientific community still refuses to officially attribute the title of interstellar object to CNEOS 2014-01-08. It is partly for this reason that the research work of the researchers who explored the possibility of this interstellar origin has not yet passed the course of peer review. A submersible robot, like Nauticus Robotics’, could help researchers explore the ocean floor. © Nauticus Robotics Inc. A scientific resource with incredible potential Suffice it to say that there are many gray areas and the chances of success are not really encouraging. But the mere idea of ​​being able to physically study the first interstellar object documented on Earth is still enough to send astronomers into a frenzy; it would be such an exceptional scientific resource that this eventuality alone justifies the creation of such an expedition. And that’s not an understatement. Because if it really is an interstellar object, it’s not just a piece of rock that specialists will track down. In essence, we would be dealing with a true cosmic relic, full of information about areas and phenomena that no human has ever had the opportunity to study so closely. The kind of object that alone could significantly advance our understanding of the universe and the dynamics of the cosmos. © Casey Horner – Unsplash And to look for that needle in this huge haystack, the specialists, fortunately, will not come away empty-handed. Fragments of data provided by the US Space Force made it possible to reduce the search perimeter to an area of ​​approximately 100 km²; an area that is still large, to be sure, but restricted enough that there is a non-negligible chance of finding a fragment. Furthermore, researchers expect this object to be magnetic; a property that could greatly facilitate its detection, or even its recovery. So it will be very interesting to follow the progress of this research. Because if they succeed and CNEOS 2014-01-08 is indeed an interstellar meteorite, it will undoubtedly be an important discovery in the history of astronomy. The research paper describing the expedition project is available here.
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