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No. 90: Nov-Dec 1993

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Alien Meteors

Meteors or shooting stars are usually considered to be small fragments that have been broken off the asteroids plying orbits between Mars and Jupiter. If this belief is correct, meteors darting into the earth's upper atmosphere would have speeds less than 260,000 kilometers per hour. Any objects with significantly higher velocities must come outside the solar system. It has, therefore, been unsettling to find that quite a few meteors hit our atmosphere at speeds much higher than 260,000 km/hr. Radar measurements of 160,000 meteors by A. Taylor and colleagues, at a New Zealand site, found that about 1% (1500 meteors) struck the atmosphere with velocities greater than 350,000 km/hr. These speedsters must come from beyond the solar system. The question arising is: Whence all this interstellar debris? One hint comes from the fact that the aliens appear to come from the direction in which the sun and its family of planets are traveling through interstellar space. Evidently, this interstellar medium is far from a vacuum; it is strewn with flotsam and jetsam -- but from what smashed planets, moons, and asteroids?

(Samson, Alan; "Radar Traps Visitors from Outer Space," Dominion Sun Times (Wellington), April 25, 1993. (Cr. P. Hassall)

From Science Frontiers #90, NOV-DEC 1993. 1993-2000 William R. Corliss