U.S. officials confirmed that a space rock that streaked through the skies off the coast of Papua New Guinea in January 2014 was, in fact, an incredibly rare meteor that originated from beyond the solar system.
This meteor is known as CNEOS 2014-01-08. It crash-landed on Jan. 8, 2014, but not until last week did government officials confirm the origin of this space rock.
The meteor was determined as “interstellar” or from beyond the solar system by Amir Siraj in 2019. At the time, Siraj, a student at Harvard University, worked to determine his findings with his academic adviser, Abraham Loeb, a professor of science at the university.
Siraj wrote about this process for Scientific American. He was studying what was at the time considered the first-known interstellar meteor called Oumuamua, which was identified in October 2017.
Though he and Loeb were confident in their findings about CNEOS 2014-01-08, and that it predates Oumuamua by three years, scientific journals refused to publish their report because their data came from a NASA database that doesn’t disclose certain information.
Last Wednesday, the U.S. Space Force Lt. Gen. John Shaw tweeted a memo officially confirming their findings and said “that the velocity estimate reported to NASA is sufficiently accurate to indicate an interstellar trajectory.”
Officials used Siraj and Loeb’s findings as well as additional information pulled from the U.S. Department of Defense to make this confirmation official.
The 2014 meteor is now one of three such interstellar meteors that have been confirmed to date, alongside Oumuamua and the interstellar comet Borisov, Siraj wrote in Scientific American.
Siraj said he hopes more follow up research into such interstellar meteors can be done to learn even more about them.
He wrote: “We are currently investigating whether a mission to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Manus Island, in the hopes of finding fragments of the 2014 meteor, could be fruitful or even possible.”