Ever since his initial encounter with news of an unusual meteor descending to Earth, astrophysicist Avi Loeb has been resolute in his pursuit to ascertain whether this event involved an extraterrestrial artifact crashing into the Pacific Ocean.
Presently, Professor Loeb, a theoretical astrophysicist at Harvard University, along with a team of scientists, reports moving a step closer to determining the true nature of the incident.
In June, they successfully retrieved suspected fragments of the meteor from the vicinity of Papua New Guinea. Loeb, in a media release on Tuesday, revealed that preliminary analysis indicates these minute metallic components indeed possess origins in interstellar space.
While the findings haven’t definitively addressed whether the metallic spheres are products of artificial creation or naturally occurring entities, Loeb underscores that the team is now confident that their discoveries stand distinct from any alloys known within our solar system.
“This is a historic discovery because it represents the first time that humans put their hand on materials from a large object that arrived to Earth from outside the solar system,” Loeb wrote Tuesday on Medium, where he has been documenting the expedition and resulting studies.
“The success of the expedition illustrates the value of taking risks in science despite all odds as an opportunity for discovering new knowledge.”
Led by Loeb, the team of scientists and researchers hired EYOS Expeditions and embarked in June aboard a boat called the Silver Star bound for Papa New Guinea.
It was north of the country where for two weeks, the crew, financed with $1.5 million from entrepreneur Charles Hoskinson, sought to retrieve any remnants they could find of an unusual meteorite they named IM1 that had crashed into Earth’s atmosphere in 2014, reports usatoday.com.
Data from the meteor recorded by U.S. government sensors went unnoticed for five years until Loeb and Amir Siraj, then an undergraduate student at Harvard, found it in 2019 and published their findings. It wasn’t for another three years, however, that the U.S. Space Command announced in a March 2022 letter to NASA that the object came from another solar system.
The revelation was vindication for Loeb, co-founder of the Galileo Project, a research program at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics dedicated to the scientific search for alien technology. Seven months later, he and his team were 53 miles off the coast of Manus Island combing more than 100 miles of ocean floor with a sled full of magnets attached to a winch on the deck of the ship.
As fortune would have it, they found what they were looking for: more than 700 submillimeter-sized spherules through 26 runs with the sled that are so miniscule as to require a microscope to see.
“This is a historic discovery, marking the first time that humans hold materials from a large interstellar object,” Hoskinson said in a statement. “I am extremely pleased with these results from this rigorous scientific analysis.”
Initial analysis indicates that specific spherules recovered from the meteor’s trajectory exhibit “remarkably elevated levels” of an unprecedented combination of dense elements.
Experts within the research team reveal that this unique amalgamation of Beryllium, Lanthanum, and Uranium, termed as the “BeLaU” composition, deviates from known terrestrial alloys indigenous to Earth, as well as from remnants stemming from nuclear detonations.
Furthermore, this composition does not align with materials found within Earth’s magma oceans, nor does it correspond to the chemical makeup of the Moon, Mars, or other naturally occurring meteorites within our solar system.
Certain elements are believed to have vaporized during the meteor’s passage through Earth’s atmosphere, prompting researchers to propose that these spherules could potentially originate from a magma ocean situated on an exoplanet possessing an iron core beyond the confines of our solar system.