Oumuamua may not be Earth's first interstellar visitor

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By Jason Davis

Maybe "Oumuamua was not the first visitor to another star system.

As the mysterious, stadium-sized object swept our Sun before it vanished in 2017, scientists thought they were watching a rare event. However, a recent newspaper suggests that an Oumuamua-like object in pint form was found in 2014, briefly flaming as a meteor in the sky over Papua New Guinea.

The newspaper's authors, Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb and Harvard student Amir Siraj, picked up data from a worldwide network of US government sensors scanning the sky for rockets and instead searched for meteors that were fast enough outside the solar system. They found a knife-sized object rammed into the earth at a speed of 37 miles per second, and tracing its path concluded it was coming from interstellar space.

It is assumed that the object has dissolved before it has reached the bottom, but its existence opens up the possibility that firsthand interstellar objects could be investigated. Loeb said the government system could be modified to alert scientists when a fast-moving meteor is discovered so they can search for fragments that have survived all the way to the ground.

"It's a new way to look for interstellar objects," said Loeb, who raised his eyebrows in 2018 when he said that Oumuamua could be an alien spaceship. "It saves you travel, you do not have to go into another planetary system, you get material objects that you may be able to examine."

If confirmed, the discovery of the meteor means that our solar system was visited by two interstellar objects in just three years. Loeb said this means that there should be at least a million more objects that we can not see whizzing through the inner solar system at all times, and that an interstellar meteor hits Earth every 10 years.

Sow life on earth

Astronomers have long hypothesized that asteroids or comets could have transported the organic molecules that became the building blocks of life to the ancient earth. However, there is no rule that says they had to come from our own solar system.

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