When interstellar object Oumuamua was discovered in 2017, it sent shock waves throughout astronomy. Oumuamua’s odd cigar-shape and its origins from another solar system were unlike anything ever seen before, leading Harvard University Professor Abraham Loeb to theorise the interstellar object could be an alien probe. And Professor Loeb has again hit the headlines following an incredible discovery – an extrasolar asteroid actually struck Earth back in 2014.
Loeb and his undergraduate assistant Amir Siraj believe space rocks traveling faster than anticipated might be evidence enough of an extrasolar visitor.
If their astrophysicists’ theory about this extrasolar asteroid turns out to be correct, it will be the first known occurrence of an object from another star system ever to impact our planet.
And even more incredible, the Harvard space scientists believe there is a chance this object even carried evidence of alien life along with it.
Professor Loeb’s team scoured the Centre for Near-Earth Object studies database for asteroids traveling faster than usual.
READ MORE: MH370 found? $3 BILLION plan to map ENTIRE ocean floor
The researchers found three hits, two of which they dismissed because of incomplete data.
The third described an asteroid calculated to be slightly less than one metre wide that had been observed disintegrating in the atmosphere on January 8, 2014, at a height of 11 miles (18 km) over Papua New Guinea.
The asteroid’s speed had been measured by at 135,000 mph (216,000 kmh).
By looking at its trajectory and tracing backward, Professor Loeb calculated the asteroid most likely came from somewhere outside of our solar system.
READ MORE: US military’s mobile nuclear reactor ‘a COLOSSAL mistake’
This would make the sighting the first known instance of an extrasolar object slammed into Earth.
The researchers report the object’s high speed indicates it was likely flung out of another star system.
And if that were the case, it would have been reasonably close to its star at some point, deep in the interior of a planetary system – potentially in its “Goldilocks zone,” meaning there is a chance it carried life.
The researchers have written a paper describing their findings, which they have submitted to The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
READ MORE: Black holes to accelerate interstellar craft to near-LIGHT SPEED
And although this theory is a scientific long shot, if fragments of this extrasolar object containing evidence of alien life was discovered, it would be a discovery of unimaginable importance.
For this reason alone, it is worth speculating about.
And even if it didn’t contain any evidence of life, retrieving such an interstellar object would be pretty extraordinary.
There are a lot of “ifs” about this object, not to mention extremely low odds of ever finding fragments of it that survived complete disintegration in our atmosphere.
The discovery nevertheless opens our eyes to the possibility of finding other objects like it that might have struck Earth sometime in the past, or that might strike it in the future.