An expedition to recover “potential alien technology” from the bottom of the ocean

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In January 2014, a meteorite about 45 cm in diameter passed through our atmosphere to land in the Pacific Ocean. According to Abraham (Avi) Loeb, former director of Harvard’s astronomy department, this interstellar object could come from a distant extraterrestrial civilization. The physicist now wants to recover the fragments of this meteorite at the bottom of the ocean to be able to verify his hypothesis.

The ‘Oumuamua object, spotted in October 2017 by the PanSTARRS telescope, is the first object identified as originating from outside the Solar System. Because its trajectory appeared to be influenced by an unidentified force (other than gravitational force), some scientists, including Professor Avi Loeb, speculated that the object might have an artificial origin. In April 2020, the astrophysicist was appointed to serve on the White House Science and Technology Advisory Committee. In January 2021, he published a book, Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earthin which he details his theory.

Since last year, Loeb has been in charge of a new project, The Galileo Project, which aims to search for physical evidence of extraterrestrial technological artifacts (and not electromagnetic signals, like the SETI project). If he is so interested in this meteorite that fell in 2014, it is because the estimate of its speed indicates that it is an interstellar object and that the amount of material burned on entering the The atmosphere suggests it’s much tougher than a typical iron meteorite — so it’s potentially made of material unknown on Earth.

A meteorite of aberrant composition and speed

The detection of Oumuamua in 2017, then of the interstellar comet Borisov in August 2019 – about 100 meters and at least 400 meters in diameter respectively – allowed to calibrate the abundance of interstellar objects of similar size. Convinced that smaller interstellar objects are arguably more abundant, some colliding with Earth, Loeb and his team scoured NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) catalog to try to spot some among the referenced racing events.

This is how they spotted in 2019 the meteorite that fell to Earth on January 8, 2014. ” This was an aberration in composition. It was also an aberration in speed outside the solar system. It moved at least twice as fast as the stars move around the Sun in its vicinity Loeb tells NBC. It was only recently, in May of this year, that the interstellar origin of the object was confirmed by the United States Department of Defense, with a confidence level of 99.999%. The object was moving at about 60 km/s relative to the Sun — far too fast to be bound by solar gravity. It could therefore be the very first interstellar object ever discovered in our solar system.

It hit the atmosphere at about [160 kilomètres] off the coast of Papua New Guinea in the middle of the night, with about 1% of the energy of the Hiroshima bomb Amir Siraj, an astrophysicist at Harvard University and co-author of the study detailing the upcoming expedition, told Space.com. Is it really an extraterrestrial artifact? To find out, the only way is to examine it closely; Professor Loeb therefore planned an expedition to recover it. Funded by private donors, it is expected to cost more than $1.5 million; the team has so far raised half a million and is still looking for the funds that will enable it to bring this project to fruition.

Tiny fragments recovered using a massive magnet

According to data from the United States Department of Defense, the object, codenamed CNEOS 2014-01-08, rests about 300 km north of Manus Island in the Bismarck Sea, in the southwestern ocean. Peaceful. The team plans to board a ship and dredge the seabed using a powerful magnet for about ten days.

The roughly 50cm-diameter meteorite is likely to have fractured into thousands of tiny fragments, but the object’s extreme toughness indicates that these fragments are very likely to be ferromagnetic. The team hopes to recover fragments as small as 0.1 mm in diameter. ” We will collect with the magnets all the fragments that are attracted, then we will brush them and study their composition in the laboratory “, detail the scientists.

The cost of the expedition is estimated at $1.6 million. A significant investment, but which remains significantly lower than the budget necessary for the alternative method which consists of launching a space mission to encounter an interstellar object in space, underlines Siraj. The project obviously arouses controversy among the scientific community, but Professor Loeb is not intimidated by the critics. ” Once I prove that we have found a technological object that was produced elsewhere, I will not seek approval from anyone else, I do not need likes on Twitter. I just wanna know what it is “, confides the astrophysicist to NBC.

Loeb remains convinced that his discoveries will be unprecedented for humanity and will necessarily change “our perspective on our place in the Universe”. If the team achieves their goal and proves this object to be an alien artifact, it will be the first time humans have gotten their hands on an object from elsewhere.

Source: arXiv

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