Researchers Have Discovered the First Interstellar Meteor to Ever Hit Earth

The outer space object originally crashed on January 8, 2014, along the northeast coast of Papua New Guinea.

Meteor falling through starry sky towards earth
Photo: jk78 / Getty Images

If you're an outer space fanatic and love to learn about the inner-workings of the galaxy, you'll be amazed at a recent discovery by researchers about a meteor that crossed paths with Earth. In a United States Space Command document release, a team of scientists found the very first interstellar meteor, which is a rock from outside of our solar system, that hit our planet. It's called CNEOS 2014-01-08, and it crashed along the northeast coast of Papua New Guinea on January 8, 2014.

Amir Siraj, the researcher who uncovered the meteor back in 2019 for a study he coauthored at Harvard University, first noticed the object because of its speed. It moved 28 miles every second in relation to Earth and 18.6 miles each second around the sun.

He found the meteor's exact velocity by measuring the heliocentric speed, also known as the speed in relation to the sun, to nail down its orbit. Siraj noted that since the meteor collided with Earth from behind, the meteor truly moved at about 37.3 miles per second in relation to the sun. After figuring out these calculations, the researcher looked into the travel path of the object and discovered that it was in an unbound orbit, so it came straight from outside of the solar systems instead of coming from around the sun. "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," Siraj said.

"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," John Shaw, deputy commander of the U.S. Space Command, wrote in a letter. "Dr. Mozer confirmed that the velocity estimate reported to NASA is sufficiently accurate to indicate an interstellar trajectory. 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."

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles