Discovery of spherules of likely extrasolar composition in the Pacific Ocean site of the CNEOS 2014-01-08 (IMI) bolide


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Discovery of Spherules of Likely Extrasolar Composition in the Pacific Ocean Site of the CNEOS 2014-01-08 (IM1) Bolide


Abraham Loeb, Toby Adamson, Sophie Bergstrom, Richard Cloete, Shai Cohen, Kevin Conrad, Laura Domine, Hairuo Fu, Charles Hoskinson, Eugenia Hyung, Stein Jacobsen, Mike Kelly, Jason Kohn, Edwin Lard, Sebastian Lam, Frank Laukien, Jim Lem, Rob McCallum, Rob Millsap, Christopher Parendo, Michail Pataev, Chaitanya Peddeti, Jeff Pugh, Shmuel Samuha, Dimitar Sasselov, Max Schlereth, J. J. Siler, Amir Siraj, Peter Mark Smith, Roald Tagle, Jonathan Taylor, Ryan Weed, Art Wright, Jeff Wynn


We have conducted an extensive towed-magnetic-sled survey during the period 14-28 June, 2023, over the seafloor centered around the calculated path of the bolide CNEOS 2014-01-08 (IM1) about 85 km north of Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. We found about 700 spherules of diameter 0.05-1.3 millimeters in our samples, of which 57 were analyzed so far. The spherules were significantly concentrated along the expected meteor path. Mass spectrometry of 47 spherules near the high-yield regions along IM1's path reveals a distinct extra-solar abundance pattern for 5 of them, while background spherules have abundances consistent with a solar system origin. The unique spherules show an excess of Be, La and U, by up to three orders of magnitude relative to the solar system standard of CI chondrites. These "BeLaU"-type spherules, never seen before, also have very low refractory siderophile elements such as Re. Volatile elements, such as Mn, Zn, Pb, are depleted as expected from evaporation losses during a meteor's airburst. In addition, the mass-dependent variations in $^{57}$Fe/$^{54}$Fe and $^{56}$Fe/$^{54}$Fe are also consistent with evaporative loss of the light isotopes during the spherules' travel in the atmosphere. 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. This evidence points towards an association of "BeLaU"-type spherules with IM1, supporting its interstellar origin independently of the high velocity and unusual material strength implied from the CNEOS data. 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.

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