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Space & Astronomy

Earth was hit by interstellar visitor in 2014

By T.K. Randall
April 17, 2019 · Comment icon 6 comments

Could life have made its way across the interstellar void ? Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Scientists have revealed that a meteor from another star system may have collided with the Earth 5 years ago.
There was much excitement in the scientific community when in October 2017 astronomers spotted the first confirmed interstellar object - a space rock known as 'Oumuamua.

Now a new study by two researchers from Harvard University has put forward the intriguing notion that such an object may have actually collided with the Earth as recently as 2014.

Being much smaller than 'Oumuamua, it was thought to have burnt up over Papua New Guinea.

"Instead of looking far out into space, and given the fact that there should be a higher abundance of interstellar objects smaller than 'Oumuamua, we thought, 'Why not look locally and find these smaller interstellar objects as they collide with the Earth's atmosphere?'," said study first author Amir Siraj.
With the assistance of Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb, Siraj discovered a record of the 2014 fireball by searching through meteor impact records kept by NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies.

By calculating its orbital trajectory, it became apparent that - like 'Oumuamua - it must have originated from outside of our solar system.

The discovery is important because if objects from other solar systems have collided with the Earth in the past, there is the possibility that life on Earth may have originated somewhere else entirely.

"Future meteor surveys could flag incoming objects with excess heliocentric velocities for follow-up pre-impact observations," the researchers wrote.

"Spectroscopy of gaseous debris from these objects as they burn up in the Earth's atmosphere would reveal their composition... Potentially, interstellar meteors could deliver life from another planetary system and mediate panspermia."

Source: Science Alert | Comments (6)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Not A Rockstar 5 years ago
@bison you seem to be up on Space research and thought. I have heard that some say it is possible that early life (I assume extremely primitive) may have been spread around by meteors and such striking or blowing up in atmospheres of alien (to the source of the meteor) worlds and always thought that basically science fiction novel material. Maybe if it was a massive one that landed on surface intact with something in its core protected from all the travel and time and heat and.... I find it hard to believe even so. What do you think about this notion? I think it is far more reasonable to suppo... [More]
Comment icon #2 Posted by and then 5 years ago
I agree.  Anything hardy enough to survive on the surface of an incoming meteor, we don't need here     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panspermia
Comment icon #3 Posted by Not A Rockstar 5 years ago
Seriously. I mean this meteor being talked about was travelling forever before ending here. If something survived on that, that is just scary LOL. I used to think "eh, maybe" but, the more I learn the less I think it very likely, but, I am no expert.
Comment icon #4 Posted by bison 5 years ago
Meteorites striking one planet containing life, and sending debris to another world, transferring that life to the second planet is speculative, as yet. We need to find life on another planet before we can test this. If you read the wikipedia article that and then linked to, you'll see that this is considered entirely possible for some kinds of simple organisms, imbedded inside a meteorite. This is called 'lithopanspermia' , which is the title of one section of the linked article. If we ever find life on Mars, it will probably be possible to discern if it arose there independently, or... [More]
Comment icon #5 Posted by Not A Rockstar 5 years ago
Yes I have read about it just found it hard to really believe.  But, I suppose there could be extreme things which might survive such a transfer.  Still, in many ways, Space seems very efficient at maintaining quarantine among worlds given the extremes off world for life as we know it, to me.  It would be rather ironic, though, if in the end we found out we came from Mars after all  
Comment icon #6 Posted by Jon the frog 5 years ago
Complex life forms can survive reentry if they have some kind of shielding like we have seen during the Columbia crash. But cosmic radiation in far outer space is far more deadly... http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/2992123.stm  

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