Scientists aim to search for an interstellar meteor that struck the Earth in 2014

At the bottom of the ocean?
Loukia Papadopoulos
A meteor crashed on Earth in 2014.RomoTavani/iStock
  • The object is located somewhere off the coast of Papua New Guinea.
  • It is the first of its kind on Earth.
  • Researchers hope to search the ocean to find it using a magnet.

We love to study meteors in the sky, but what if we had one right here on Earth? Imagine the discoveries we could make!

A meteor buried deep in the ocean

It turns out there might be such a celestial object buried deep in the ocean just off the coast of Papua New Guinea. The interstellar object crashed back in 2014, and now some scientists are seeking to find it, according to a report by Universe Today published Wednesday.

It’s the first of its kind known to exist on Earth. Of course, undertaking an undersea expedition to find it would be a long shot, but the scientific payoff would be so significant that it is worth the risk.

For now, scientists are calling the meteor CNEOS 2014-01-08, and they believe it to be about a half-meter wide. The object was first recognized by then graduate student Amir Siraj and Harvard professor Avi Loeb who made use of catalog data regarding the object’s trajectory to conclude that it might be from beyond our solar system.

Perhaps what’s most impressive about the project is that the data used to measure the object’s impact came from a U.S. Department of Defense spy satellite designed to monitor military activities around the globe. However, this also means that the exact error values of the measurement of the researchers cannot be revealed not to betray the U.S. military satellite’s precise capabilities.

Scientists aim to search for an interstellar meteor that struck the Earth in 2014
A meteor shooting through the sky.

Snubbed by the scientific community

This is an issue as, without these precise details, the scientific community refuses to acknowledge that CNEOS 2014-01-08 could be an interstellar object. As such, Siraj and Loeb’s paper on the matter is still unpublished and has not yet passed peer review either.

This is why the researchers are now attempting to find the object themselves and study it up close. How would they go about this?

Well, since the majority of the meteorite likely burned up once entering the atmosphere, it would be particularly hard to find its remaining pieces. However, the researchers argue that the particles would be magnetic, which means a ship with a giant magnet might be able to draw them up.

Where do they plan to search for these pieces? After all, the ocean is pretty large. Luckily, tracking data from the satellite, combined with wind and ocean current data, can provide a feasible search area of just 10km by 10km.

Siraj and Loeb are already in discussion with an ocean technology consulting company to see how viable their plans are.

Loeb told Universe Today that such a search could offer scientists “the opportunity to actually put our hands on the relic and figure out whether it’s natural, whether it’s a rock, or whether, you know, a small fraction of those [interstellar objects] might be artificial.”

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