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Meteor

US Military Records Confirm An Interstellar Meteor Collided With Earth In 2014

According to a recently released document from the United States Space Command, researchers discovered an interstellar meteor hit Earth in 2014. An interstellar meteor is a space rock that originated from outside of our solar system, making it extremely rare for any of them to make contact with our planet. 

CNEOS 2014-01-08 is the name of the meteor that crashed along the northeast coast of Papua New Guinea on January 8th, 2014 (hence the numbers in the name).

Amir Siraj identified the object as an interstellar meteor in 2019 when he co authored a study as an undergraduate at Harvard University. Initially, Siraj was investigating “Oumuamua,” the first known interstellar object in our solar system that was found in 2017. 

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Siraj was performing the study with Harvard professor of science Abraham Loeb. Siraj was going through NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies database to potentially find other interstellar objects and was able to find the 2014 meteor within days. 

Siraj was able to conclude that the object was indeed an interstellar meteor based on the high velocity of it when it hit Earth. The meteor was moving at a high speed of 28 miles per second, for reference the Earth is currently moving around the sun at a speed of 18.6 miles per second. 

After mapping out the meteor’s trajectory, Siraj found that at its highest speed, the meteor was moving at about 37.3 miles per second in relation to the sun. He used this to determine that the meteor was in an unbound orbit before crashing into Earth, meaning it came from outside our solar system. 

“Presumably, it was produced by another star, got kicked out of that star’s planetary system and just so happened to make its way to our solar system and collide with Earth.”

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John Shaw, deputy commander of the US Space Command, which is part of the US Department of Defense, was able to confirm that the object was in fact an interstellar meteor after reviewing the findings in the study.

“Dr. Joel Mozer, the Chief Scientist of Space Operations Command, the United States Space Force service component of U.S. Space Command, reviewed analysis of additional data available to the Department of Defense related to this finding. Dr. Mozer confirmed that the velocity estimate reported to NASA is sufficiently accurate to indicate an interstellar trajectory,” wrote Shaw.

Initially, Siraj and Loeb weren’t able to get their findings published or confirmed from NASA due to the database it came from. So much time had passed since they contacted NASA for confirmation, that Siraj even moved on to other studies so he wouldn’t get his hopes up to high. 

“I thought that we would never learn the true nature of this meteor, that it was just blocked somewhere in the government after our many tries, and so actually seeing that letter from the Department of Defense with my eyes was a really incredible moment,” Siraj said.

Now that Loeb and Siraj have their confirmation, their team is working to resubmit all their findings for publication to explain in greater detail the significance of this discovery.

Geminid Meteor Shower

How To Watch The Upcoming Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower

In late April and early May, scientists claim the Eta Aquarid meteor shower will illuminate the sky all over the world, dazzling any onlookers with up to 50 meteors passing through the sky per hour. The show is actually a result of debris left behind by Halley’s Comet. 

According to experts each spring, the Earth passes through the debris trail from Halley’s Comet; one of the most famous comets in history. As bits of ice and rock enter into our atmosphere from the comet itself, they burn up into meteors, and light up the sky in what we view as a multitude of shooting stars. 

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The Earth passes through the trail of Halley’s Comet twice a year, this marks the first for 2021 and the second crossing will occur this fall and create what is known as the Orionid meteor shower. During this specific shower, however, scientists claim that the shooting stars seem to come directly from the constellation Aquarius; which is how the event got its name. 

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is known for having extremely fast stars that can travel up to 44 miles per second from our vantage point. However, don’t worry if you’re not quick enough to catch one, because most leave glowing trials behind them for a few seconds. 

The shower in total runs from April 19th to May 28th, but more times than not there will only be a handful of shooting stars every night. For the best chance of seeing one, go out before dawn on May 5th, when the shower is predicted to be at its peak. The days leading up to and following the peak will be most ideal for viewing. 

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Predawn early hours are thought to be the very best time to see shooting stars, so you’ll have to get up nice and early if you really want to see the show.

Your distance from the equator also may impact how many meteors you’ll see in the coming month. The closer you are, the more likely you’ll see shooting stars light up the sky every night. Scientists claim the Southern Hemisphere has the most prime viewing of this shower, however, the Eta Aquarids are visible all over the world, they’re just more predominant in some places. 

The next two meteor showers that will be around the same size as these two annual ones will be the Southern Delta Aquarid shower and the Alpha Capricornids shower, both of which are set to begin and peak in late July. However, the Perseid meteor shower coming up this August is projected to be one of the biggest of the year.