A meteor that blazed through the skies over Brazil last month may have been a visitor from another solar system.
The space rock flashed through the night sky above Rio Grande do Sul on May 30 and came close enough to be classed as an ‘Earthgrazer’.
Even more importantly, if it did originate in another solar system, it would only be the third such object ever recorded.
Most of the comets and meteors we see orbit our Sun and flash past Earth in the blink of an eye.
But according to Brazil’s Meteor Watch Network (BRAMON), the speed and trajectory of this fireball suggest it came from interstellar space.
Footage of the Earthgrazer asteroid passing over Brazil (Credits: Richard Ainsworth)
‘An earthgrazer meteor that occurred in Rio Grande do Sul last May 30th, may have been generated by an interstellar meteoroid, that is, coming from outside the solar system,’ the organisation said in the statement.
The Brazilian agency noted the speed of the meteor as way in excess of what they would expect. They estimate it was traveling at speeds of 143,350mph (230,700kph).
‘Very fast meteors can have a cometary origin, coming from the farthest reaches of the Solar System, or even from outside it,’ the agency added.
‘If this is confirmed, it will be the first interstellar meteor recorded by BRAMON, which shows that the phenomenon is extremely rare and that it is worth studying in more depth,’ BRAMON added.
Brazil’s Meteor Watch Network tracked the speed and trajectory of the meteor as it passed over (Credits: Richard Ainsworth)
The only other two objects passing Earth deemed to come from another solar system were recorded in 2017 and 2019.
The former, known as ‘Oumuamua’ has generated considerable debate over whether it is evidence of alien technology.
The asteroid, estimated to be between 100 and 1,000 metres, moved in a strange way and was studied by scientists as it flew through our galactic neighbourhood.
What made Oumuamua stand out were its dimensions and its brightness. It was wider than it was long – shaped like a cigar – and ten times more reflective that typical comets or asteroids we witness in the solar system.
The second known visitor was Comet 2I/Borisov, discovered in August 2019 by amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov.
That was a far more conventional comet that survived a close approach with the Sun before venturing on its way.