‘Historic Discovery’: Harvard Physicist Says Fragments Found In Pacific May Be From Outside Earth’s Solar System
Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A Harvard physicist professor cited remnants from a meteor-like object to claim that they could have come from outside our solar system.

Professor Avi Loeb and a team of researchers retrieved roughly 700 tiny metallic spheres from an impact zone about 85 kilometers north of Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. According to composition analysis executed by Stein Jacobsen and his team at Harvard University, 57 reportedly contain compositions that don’t match man-made or natural alloys.

“This is a historic discovery because it represents the first time that humans put their hand on materials from a large object that arrived to Earth from outside the solar system,” Loeb said on Tuesday.

“I was thrilled when Stein Jacobsen reported to me about it based on the results in his laboratory,” Loeb told The Daily Mail. “Stein is a highly conservative and professional geochemist with a worldwide reputation. He had no bias or agenda whatsoever and expected to find familiar spherules with solar system composition. But the data showed something new, never reported in the scientific literature. Science is guided by evidence.”

“For now, we wanted to check whether the materials are from outside the solar system,” he continued. “The success of the expedition illustrates the value of taking risks in science despite all odds as an opportunity for discovering new knowledge.”

According to Loeb’s non-peer reviewed study, the spherules contain beryllium, lanthanum and uranium, referred to in the study as “BeLaU.” “The ‘BeLaU’ abundance pattern is not found in control regions outside of IM1’s path and does not match commonly manufactured alloys or natural meteorites in the solar system,” the study theorized. “We suggest that the ‘BeLaU’ abundance pattern could have originated from a highly differentiated magma ocean of a planet with an iron core outside the solar system or from more exotic sources.”

The expedition to the South Pacific was announced back in January, with Loeb explaining the reasons for the trip in a post on Medium.

“Within a couple of months, I will be leading an expedition to collect the fragments of the first interstellar meteor,” Loeb wrote in January. “This meteor is the first near-Earth object ever detected by humans from outside the solar system. We have a dream team, including some of the most experienced and qualified professionals in ocean expeditions. We have complete design and manufacturing plans for the required sled, magnets, collection nets and mass spectrometer.”

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