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Mystery of the IM1 Meteor and its Alien Spherules

In 2014, a bright fireball streaked across the sky over the Pacific Ocean, near Papua New Guinea. It was an interstellar visitor, a rare meteor that came from outside our solar system. Its official name is CNEOS 2014-01-08, but it is also known as IM1, short for Interstellar Meteor 1.

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IM1 was detected by the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It had a very high speed of about 60 km/s, much faster than any known asteroid or comet in our solar system. It also had a very unusual trajectory, coming from the direction of the constellation Lyra and leaving towards the constellation Pegasus.

But what was even more remarkable was what happened after IM1 exploded in the air, about 18 km above the sea level. A team of researchers led by Professor Avi Loeb from Harvard University conducted an extensive survey of the seafloor along the calculated path of IM1, using a towed-magnetic-sled device.

They collected hundreds of tiny spherules, spherical particles that form when molten material cools rapidly in the air.

The abundances of refractory lithophile elements in the “BeLaU”-type spherules, normalized by the standard composition of the primordial material that made the solar system.
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Early analysis shows that some spherules from the meteor path contain extremely high abundances of Beryllium, Lanthanum and Uranium, labeled as a never-seen-before “BeLaU” composition.

These elements are very rare in the solar system, and their ratios do not match any known natural or artificial alloy or meteorite. The spherules also have very low levels of other elements, such as iron and manganese, suggesting that they were evaporated during the airburst.

“Our research team’s analysis of 60 elements from the periodic table shows that these spherules are not coal ash, and did not originate from the crust of the Earth, the Moon or Mars. The BeLaU-type abundance pattern is unprecedented in the scientific literature and could have originated from differentiation in a magma ocean on an exo-planet with an iron core,” says Avi Loeb.

The researchers propose that these spherules are of extrasolar origin, meaning that they came from another star system.

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They suggest that they could have formed in the magma ocean stage of a differentiated planet, where heavy elements sink to the core and light elements rise to the surface. The high concentration of beryllium could indicate that the planet was exposed to cosmic rays in the interstellar medium for a long time.

But a draft paper by seismologist Benjamin Fernando of Johns Hopkins University and his colleagues, not yet peer reviewed or published in a journal, concludes that the material recovered from the seafloor is “almost certainly unrelated” to the meteor.

Differentiated spherules include the “BeLaU”-type in the two examples on the right-hand-side.

Loeb, however, is standing his ground. “This press release is by people who did not do any work. They did not collect materials, they did not analyse anything. They just sit on their chairs and express their opinions.”

In a post on Medium, Loeb responded further. “The astronomers who dismiss the [satellite] data and argue that it must be entirely wrong, should lose sleep at night because their mistrust implies that their safety is not secured and their taxes are wasted on an unreliable national security infrastructure,” he wrote.

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Loeb has since contended that the chemical composition of some of the spherules found by that search is unlike anything known in our solar system, and “could have originated from a highly differentiated magma ocean of a planet with an iron core outside the solar system, or from more exotic sources”.

This is a groundbreaking discovery that could shed light on the formation and evolution of planets around other stars. It also raises many questions, such as: How did IM1 escape from its original star system? How long did it travel in the interstellar space? How common are interstellar meteors and spherules? What other secrets do they hold?

The researchers plan to continue their analysis of the spherules and look for more evidence of their interstellar origin. They also hope to find more interstellar meteors in the future, using improved detection and recovery methods. They believe that studying these cosmic messengers could reveal new insights into the nature and diversity of life in the universe.

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Jake Carter

Jake Carter is a researcher and a prolific writer who has been fascinated by science and the unexplained since childhood. He is always eager to share his findings and insights with the readers of, a website he created in 2013.