Harvard’s resident UFO hunter thinks he and his team may have recovered tiny fragments of an interstellar visitor at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean — but there’s still lots to be skeptical about.
As the BBC reports, Harvard’s firebrand astronomer Avi Loeb has found what he believes could be fragments of an alien meteor using his “interstellar hook,” a tentacle-like contraption he invented that scrapes the ocean floor to rake up potential interstellar rock samples.
Loeb has made a name for himself in his years-long quest to discover artifacts that could belong to an extraterrestrial civilization. Though he’s perhaps most famous for his theories surrounding the interstellar object ‘Oumuamua that flew past Earth in October 2017, the latest anomaly in question dubbed IM1 fell into the Pacific Ocean back in 2014.
Loeb strongly believes that it came from outside of our Solar System due to the incredible speed at which it crash-landed into our seas, the location of which the Department of Defense later confirmed.
And that’s not all. Loeb maintains that the meteor may represent technology from an alien civilization, an arguably far-fetched theory that’s bound to raise eyebrows among his peers.
But did he and his team really find evidence of the object’s interstellar origins or were they simply sifting through otherwise unnoteworthy debris on the bottom of the ocean?
Earlier this month, Loeb and his crew set sail aboard a ship fortuitously named the Silver Star to take their interstellar hook for a ride. And on June 21, they appeared to have hit pay dirt when they found tiny spherical fragments called “spherules” made up of a strange mix of iron, magnesium, and titanium.
Spherules like the ones the Harvard alien hunter and his team found, the BBC notes, are often the hallmarks of meteorites or asteroids, which are created when they violently explode.
While Loeb seems to be confident that the tiny fragments, just a third of a millimeter in size, are from IM1, other scientists are skeptical and noted that spherules can also be created by terrestrial processes, too.
“Tiny metallic spherules are exceedingly common on Earth,” Marc Fries, a cosmic dust curator at NASA, told the BBC. “They come from automobile exhaust, vehicle brakes, welding, volcanoes, and probably some more sources we haven’t identified.”
And that’s not to mention they could’ve been pieces of the hundreds of other meteorites that shower down on us every year.
But that hasn’t perturbed Loeb, who has since insisted on his blog that the spherules’ “anomalous” composition makes them a good candidate for having interstellar origins, though he notes that further research is necessary to figure out just what makes them so special.
The team is now hoping to analyze the samples with a spectrometer at Harvard to identify any isotopes within.
And who knows? There’s still a minuscule chance they could’ve arrived here from an entirely different star system.