Military note adds to possible interstellar meteorite mystery

While many—including two Harvard astronomers—interpreted the NASA Space Command statement as an assertion that the meteorite is interstellar, some astronomers believe more data is needed to support this claim. They say the available measurements lack error bars that indicate their accuracy or uncertainty.

A sentence is not enough. Scientific results are published and not confidential. said Maria Hajdukova, a researcher at the Astronomical Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Slovakia, who studies meteors and examines space command support. “I’m not saying I don’t believe it, but if I don’t have the facts I can’t claim them,” she added.

NASA said in general statement This month, “the short duration of the data collected, less than five seconds, makes it difficult to determine whether the object’s origin is indeed interstellar.”

“Quite frankly, we can’t confirm it’s interstellar,” NASA Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson said in an interview. “Although it is of a high velocity, which is a velocity that can be interstellar, it is almost impossible to confirm that it is interstellar without accompanying data—from a longer data range or data from other sources, which is not present in this case.”

Dr. disagreed. Loeb and Mr. Siraj. “Five seconds is a lot of time,” Dr. Loeb said. “It’s not the duration that matters, it’s the quality of the data collected that matters. In five seconds, you can do a lot in terms of hardware and measurement.”

He and Mr. Siraj plan to resubmit their paper to The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Peter Ferris, an astronomer with the International Astronomical Union’s Center for Minor Planets, which tracks objects in the solar system, said data about the 2014 meteor shower now coming from the military may help their argument.

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This data shows an unusual sequence of three bursts of light as the object was blasting through Earth’s atmosphere. “It sounds weird, I can tell you,” said Dr. Ferris, noting that the brightness of meteors as they descend typically peaks only once.

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