The Pentagon confirms that a meteor came from our solar system.
A US Space Command official says a meteor that entered Earth’s atmosphere eight years ago came from beyond our solar system.
A letter posted on Twitter April 7 by the US Space Command states that Dr. Joel Mozer, the Space Operations Command’s chief scientist, examined a report“Discovery of a meteor of interstellar origin”, on the emergence of the 2014 meteor from an “unbound hyperbolic orbit”, or interstellar space. This means the rock was not one of many counted objects in our solar system – instead, it came from beyond our known galactic territory.
Mozer reviewed the data in the report and confirmed that the analysis by Harvard University experts Amir Siraj and Abraham Loeb accurately indicated an interstellar event.
“Dr. Mozer has confirmed that the velocity estimate reported to NASA is sufficiently accurate to indicate an interstellar trajectory,” the letter reads. Mozer’s verification means that this meteor may have predated the only other known object to enter Earth’s solar system from interstellar space, ‘Oumuamua. This object was discovered in October 2017 and reached speeds of 196,000 miles per hour.
Now there is confirmation of an interstellar event about three years before ‘Oumuamua. Siraj and Loeb used data from NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) to find that the 2014 meteor had an “abnormally” high heliocentric velocity, or velocity relative to the sun, “implying that the object was not bound”. With “99.999% confidence”, Siraj and Loeb presented their theory that “the excessive size, trajectory and speed” exclude that the meteor could have come from our own solar system.
In an emailed statement to USA TODAY, NASA spokesman Joshua Handal said the 2014 meteor did not make landfall because it was a bolide, or a Very bright meteor that explodes upon impact with Earth’s atmosphere.
While US Space Command’s analysis confirmed that Siraj and Loeb’s velocity estimate appeared to accurately describe interstellar activity, the report involves an extremely brief data sample, according to a NASA April 7 StatementPlanetary Defense Coordination Office.
“The short duration of the data collected, less than five seconds, makes it difficult to definitively determine whether the object’s origin was indeed interstellar,” NASA said.
USA TODAY has contacted US Space Command for further comment.