Beautiful Virgin Islands

Thursday, Feb 02, 2023

Military Memo Deepens Possible Interstellar Meteor Mystery

Military Memo Deepens Possible Interstellar Meteor Mystery

The U.S. Space Command seemed to confirm a claim that a meteor from outside the solar system had entered Earth’s atmosphere, but other scientists and NASA are still not convinced.
In early 2014, a dishwasher-size meteor dashed over the shores of Papua New Guinea before sunrise as it burned up in the fiery friction of Earth’s atmosphere. But two Harvard researchers argued that this wasn’t just any space rock: It originated from another star system, they said, making it the first observed meteor of interstellar origin.

They wrote up the extraordinary claim and submitted it to an astronomy journal. But the paper was not accepted for publication. Reviewers noted a lack of sufficient detail to verify the claim about the fireball in the published data, which came from a NASA database and relied on readings that were obscured because they were from U.S. intelligence community satellites, and could reveal how the military monitors missile launches.

“We had thought this was a lost cause,” said one of the researchers, Amir Siraj, a Harvard undergraduate student studying astrophysics. Without the more thorough data, he conceded, it was difficult “to figure out whether the object was truly interstellar or not.”

But, it turned out, the truth was out there. Last month, the U.S. Space Command released a memo to NASA scientists that stated the data from the missile warning satellites’ sensors “was sufficiently accurate to indicate an interstellar trajectory” for the meteor. The publication of the memo was the culmination of a three-year effort by Mr. Siraj and a well-known Harvard astronomer, Avi Loeb.

Many scientists, including those at NASA, say that the military still has not released enough data to confirm the interstellar origins of the space rock, and a spokeswoman said Space Command would defer to other authorities on the question. But it wasn’t the only information about meteors to be released. The military also handed NASA decades of secret military data on the brightness of hundreds of other fireballs, or bolides.

“It’s an unusual degree of visibility of a set of data coming from that world,” said Matt Daniels, assistant director for space security at the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, who worked on the data release. “We’re in this renewed period of excitement and activity in space programs generally, and in the midst of that, I think thoughtful leaders in multiple places said, ‘you know, now is a good time to do this.’”

In recent years, a pair of objects that passed through our immediate stellar neighborhood drew considerable attention because they were confirmed to have originated outside the solar system. The first object was Oumuamua, a long, flat body that zoomed through the solar system in 2017. Dr. Loeb, one of the two who studied the 2014 meteorite, has also attracted attention and dispute by arguing that Oumuamua was technology sent by intelligent life. Other astronomers are still debating what kind of natural object it was.

In 2019, Borisov, a comet roughly the size of the Eiffel Tower, became the second confirmed interstellar visitor. A piece of it broke off in 2020 after it rounded the sun.

While data from classified military satellites may not have aided the study of those interstellar visitors, they could help academic researchers study objects closer to Earth. They could also aid NASA in its federally assigned role as defender of planet Earth from killer asteroids. And that is the goal of a new agreement with the U.S. Space Force that aims to help NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office better understand what happens when space rocks reach the atmosphere.

Dr. Daniels at the White House played a key role in the Harvard researchers’ effort to clinch a public statement from Space Command. After getting rejected from The Astrophysical Journal Letters, a peer-reviewed scientific publication, Dr. Loeb said he contacted a colleague at Los Alamos National Lab who eventually connected him with Dr. Daniels. The White House official then brought up the meteor in a conversation with Space Command officials in 2020, which kick-started government efforts to make a public statement on the military satellite’s data about the purported interstellar meteor.

“I knew that this would be a challenge, and so it was an ongoing conversation for some time,” Dr. Daniels said.

Sharing sensitive military satellite data with astronomers has led to significant scientific discoveries in the past.

A group of satellites deployed in the 1960s by the United States to detect covert detonations of nuclear weapons on Earth accidentally became the key instruments used to make the first detection of extraterrestrial gamma ray bursts. The bursts showed up on the satellites, code named Vela, as single bursts of energy, confusing analysts at Los Alamos National Lab who later declassified the data in a 1973 paper that spurred academic debate about the bursts’ origins.

But while arguments about the gamma bursts were largely resolved later, Mr. Siraj and Dr. Loeb’s hypothesis about the interstellar meteor is still a subject of dispute.

While many — including the two Harvard astronomers — have interpreted Space Command’s statement to NASA as confirmation that the meteor is interstellar, some astronomers believe more data is needed to back up the claim. The available measurements, they say, lack error bars that indicate how precise or uncertain they were.

“The sentence is not enough. Scientific results are published, they are not secret,” said Maria Hajdukova, a researcher at the Astronomical Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Slovakia who studies meteors and examined the Space Command corroboration. “I’m not saying I don’t believe it, but if I don’t have facts I cannot claim it,” she added.

NASA said in a public statement this month that “the short duration of collected data, less than five seconds, makes it difficult to definitively determine if the object’s origin was indeed interstellar.”

“Quite frankly, we can’t confirm that it’s interstellar,” NASA’s planetary defense officer, Lindley Johnson, said in an interview. “Although it is of high velocity, a velocity that could be potentially interstellar, it is next to impossible to confirm that it’s interstellar without accompanying data — from a longer data span or data from other sources, which doesn’t exist in this case.”

Dr. Loeb and Mr. Siraj disagreed. “Five seconds is plenty of time,” Dr. Loeb said. “It’s not the duration that matters, it’s the quality of the data that was assembled that matters. During five seconds you can do a lot, in terms of instrumentation and measurement.”

He and Mr. Siraj plan to resubmit their paper to The Astrophysical Journal Letters. And the data about the 2014 meteor now coming from the military agency may help their argument, said Peter Veres, an astronomer at the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center, which tracks objects in the solar system.

That data shows an unusual sequence of three explosions of light as the object was barreling through Earth’s atmosphere. “It looks weird, I can tell you that,” Dr. Veres said, noting that the brightness of meteors during their plunge typically peaks only once.

The Space Command letter was provocative enough to be noted by NASA officials who shared it throughout the agency’s Science Mission Directorate and with its Small Bodies Assessment Group. Lori Glaze, the director of NASA’s planetary science division, said in an email to colleagues that “we believe the potential of this event being an especially high-velocity entry of a very small body into Earth’s atmosphere will be of interest to the small bodies community.”

A core reason for Space Force’s increasing ties with NASA has centered on the agency’s congressional mandate to detect nearly all asteroids that could threaten the earth. When NASA signed an agreement in 2020 to strengthen ties with Space Force, the agency acknowledged it had fallen behind in its asteroid-tracking efforts and would need Pentagon resources to carry out its planetary defense mission.

The recent bolide agreement, granting NASA access to light curve data that will help scientists analyze the physical properties of plunging fireballs, is one step in that direction.

“This is a very rich data set that has now been released by U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command for the scientific community,” said Dr. Johnson, NASA’s planetary defense chief. “I know the meteor researchers, those that now have a chance to look at this data and compare it to other data sources and such, are very excited about it.”
Newsletter

Related Articles

Beautiful Virgin Islands
Close
0:00
0:00
WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT - US Memphis Police murdering innocent Tyre Nichols
I have a dream, MLK inspiring speech
Almost 30% of professionals say they've tried ChatGPT at work
Aretha Franklin, Marvis Staples - Oh Happy Day
Interpol seeks woman who ran elaborate exam cheating scam in Singapore
BVI Freedom Song
What is ChatGPT?
Billy Preston - You Can't Beat God Giving (Live)
Bill Gates is ‘very optimistic’ about the future: ‘Better to be born 20 years from now...than any time in the past’
VIRGIN ISLANDS REGGAE CARIBBEAN RIDDIMZ
Tesla reported record profits and record revenues for 2022
Oh Happy Day Edwin Hawkins - Anthony Brown w FBCG Combined Choir
Prince Andrew and Virginia Giuffre Photo Is Fake: Ghislaine Maxwell
'Stand by Me' performed by Karen Gibson and The Kingdom Choir
Opinion | Israel’s Supreme Court Claims a Veto on Democracy
National Anthem of the British Virgin Islands - Oh, Beautiful Virgin
Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin Gets Married On His 93rd Birthday
Hello Dolly
Who’s Threatening Israeli Democracy?
for KING & COUNTRY - Amen (Reborn) [feat. Lecrae & The WRLDFMS Tony Wi
Federal Reserve Probes Goldman’s Consumer Business
Bob Marley - Get Up Stand Up
China's first population drop in six decades
Yes He Can
Microsoft is finalising plans to become the latest technology giant to reduce its workforce during a global economic slowdown
What A Friend We Have In Jesus
China's foreign ministry branch in Hong Kong urges British gov't to stop the biased and double standards Hong Kong report
Unforgettable
Tesla slashes prices globally by as much as 20 percent
Touch The Hem Of His Garment
1.4 Million Copies Of Prince Harry's Memoir 'Spare' Sold On 1st Day In UK
The Lord's Prayer
After Failing To Pay Office Rent, Twitter May Sell User Names
THE GOD MOVEMENT...BEAUTIFUL BVI
Lisa Marie Presley, singer and daughter of Elvis, dies aged 54
Siyahamba
FIFA president questioned by prosecutors
Ray Charles And The Voices Of Jubilaton, Oh, Happy Day
Britain's Sunak breaks silence and admits using private healthcare
Ramblin' Rose
Hype and backlash as Harry's memoir goes on sale. Unnamed royal source says prince 'kidnapped by cult of psychotherapy and Meghan'
Protoje - Who Knows ft. Chronixx
Saudi Arabia set to overtake India as fastest-growing major economy this year 
Pressure - Virgin Islands Nice
Google and Facebook’s dominance in digital ads challenged by rapid ascent of Amazon and TikTok
Phil Wickham - House Of The Lord
FTX fraud investigators are digging deeper into Sam Bankman-Fried's inner circle – and reportedly have ex-engineer Nishad Singh in their sights
My God Is Real (Yes, God Is Real)
TikTok CEO Plans to Meet European Union Regulators
The Lion King Circle of Life by LEBO M. — LIVE at the HAVASI Symphonic
UK chaos: Hong Kong emigrants duped by false prospectus
Louis Armstrong - When The Saints Go Marching In
France has banned the online sale of paracetamol until February, citing ongoing supply issues
Kanye West Sunday Service - hallelujah, salvation, and glory
Japan reportedly to give families 1 million yen per child to move out of Tokyo
Jonathan Nelson - I Believe (Island Medley
Will Canada ever become a real democracy?
From The Virgin Islands Sqad Up
Hong Kong property brokerages slash payrolls in choppy market
Common, John Legend - Glory
U.S. Moves to Seize Robinhood Shares, Silvergate Accounts Tied to FTX
Anthony Evans vs. Jesse Campbell - If I Ain't Got You
Effect of EU sanctions on Moscow is ‘less than zero’ – Belgian MEP
I have a dream, MLK inspiring speech
Coinbase to Pay $100 Million in Settlement With New York Regulator
Aretha Franklin, Marvis Staples - Oh Happy Day
×