Claims about meteor CNEOS 2014-01-08 are an example of the press repeating unverified and rather far-fetched claims in a matter-of-fact way that are not justified by any observations. The claim made is that meteor CNEOS 2014-01-08 came from interstellar space and plunged into the ocean off the coast of Papua New Guinea in 2014. That is a very extraordinary claim, not made about any other meteor that has struck our planet. Virtually all meteors are believed to simply originate from other places in the solar system, or from the Oort Cloud believed to exist on the outer fringes of our solar system.
The first two people to make such a claim were the astronomers Abraham Loeb and Amir Siraj, who made the claim in a 2022 preprint paper entitled "The 2019 Discovery of a Meteor of Interstellar Origin." When I search for the topic of CNEOS 2014-01-08 on the Cornell physics paper server, I find that 8 out of 9 papers mentioning it were written by Abraham Loeb and Amir Siraj. The "2019 Discovery of a Meteor of Interstellar Origin" was just another example of scientists claiming something as fact which had not yet been shown to be even likely.
The data from a CNEOS database indicated the CNEOS 2014-01-08 meteor had a speed of about 44 kilometers per second before exploding or burning up high above the Pacific Ocean. Supposedly the trajectory of the object suggested it might have traveled in space as fast as 60 kilometers per second. Such speeds are not all that unusual. Meteors commonly strike the Earth with similar velocities. A web site states, "Meteoroids enter Earth’s atmosphere at speeds typically of 12-40 km/s relative to the Earth."
A Scientific American story in 2019 ("Did a Meteor from Another Star Strike Earth in 2014?") strikes a good critical tone. The story has a subtitle of "Questionable data cloud the potential discovery of the first known interstellar fireball." We read this:
"Weiss says, the claim that this particular space rock was interstellar is problematic. 'The meteor catalog that [Loeb and Siraj] used does not report uncertainties on the incoming velocity,' he notes. 'These uncertainties need to be quantified before this meteor can be accepted as interstellar.' That is also the view of Paul Chodas, the CNEOS catalog’s manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 'We at CNEOS simply post the fireball data that is reported to us; we have no information on the uncertainties,' he says... Loeb and Siraj’s 'quite extraordinary' and “highly speculative” claim, he says, 'is based on just a few numbers that are likely highly uncertain.' ”
Later in the Scientific American article we read a NASA official (Lindley Johnson) saying that the CNEOS database has estimates of speed and directionality as kind of an afterthought, in hopes that some people might find such estimates helpful in searching for meteorites (the physical remains of a meteor). He says that using those estimates to infer where a meteor came from was "already stretching the credence in the data beyond anything really scientifically valid." We read the official complaining like this:
"Johnson says, 'Now [Loeb and Siraj] want to speculate based on such tenuous data that some could be interstellar objects? That really stretches the credibility past the breaking point for me.' ”
But the science news press is now doing what they do all the time: speaking as if tenuous speculations are facts. Recently we see quite a few stories matter-of-factly referring to CNEOS 2014-01-08 as an object of interstellar origin, despite the lack of any convincing evidence for such a claim. In a paper in August 2022 Abraham Loeb claims that "the U.S. Department of Defense has since verified that 'the velocity estimate reported to NASA is sufficiently accurate to indicate an interstellar trajectory,' making the object the first detected interstellar object and the first detected interstellar meteor." No, so sketchy and imprecise a statement does not at all make CNEOS 2014-01-08 "the first detected interstellar meteor."
The statement quoted is from a document shown here. The document is a memo written by John E. Shaw who merely states that "Dr. Mozer confirmed that the velocity estimate reported to NASA is sufficiently accurate to indicate an interstellar trajectory." Such a statement is not a government confirmation that CNEOS 2014-01-08 came from another solar system. We still don't know how high the estimate uncertainties are here. We are merely reading a Shaw reporting a vaguely worded opinion of a Mozer, without getting any numerical specifics. When Person X gives a sentence vaguely summarizing the opinion of Person Y that may have been nagged out of him by Person Z and may have involved some secret satellite, without any specific numbers being mentioned, that isn't science. Science is well-replicated precise results involving publicly available data.
In the paper mentioned above Loeb is proposing a very expensive mission to retrieve what he thinks will be no more than .1 millimeter-sized specks of this meteor. Specks that size can only be seen by someone squinting. We read this:
"Our plan is to mobilize a ship with a magnetic sled deployed using a long line winch. We will be operating approximately ∼ 300 km north of Manus Island. The team will consist of seven sled operators, plus the scientific team. The goal of the expedition is to recover ∼ 0.1 mm size fragments from the meteorite that exploded over the Bismarck sea in 2014. The recovered fragments will be carefully analyzed and will be shared with the global scientific community. We will tow a sled mounted with magnets, cameras and lights on the ocean floor inside of a 10 km ×10 km search box."
Why is Loeb proposing so expensive a mission to look for tiny specks in the sea? He seems to have got the idea that maybe CNEOS 2014-01-08 was an extraterrestrial spaceship that burned up in the atmosphere. Such an idea is ludicrous. A civilization capable of launching missions between solar systems would have god-like technological powers. The idea that such a mission would come all the way from some other solar system, reach our planet, and then explode in our atmosphere is a very absurd idea. It's much more far-fetched than thinking that the US would launch a Mars lander that exploded in the atmosphere of Mars before it even landed on Mars.
In a universe that is about 13 billion years old, there is no reason we can think of why intelligent life would appear in two different solar systems at roughly the same time in the same ten-parsec part of a galaxy. People who theorize about extraterrestrial civilizations frequently tell us that if some extraterrestrial civilization existed, it would probably be very many thousands or millions of years more advanced than our civilization. It is hardly credible to believe that so advanced a civilization would launch interstellar missions that would explode in the atmosphere of a planet after the mission arrived after a very long interstellar voyage. Exploding in the atmosphere is the behavior of natural meteors, not interstellar spaceships.
If such a mission as proposed by Loeb were to find such just-barely-visible sea specks, there would be no way to even identify that they were fragments of the CNEOS 2014-01-08 meteor, and no way to verify that this meteor came from another solar system.
I can think of hundreds of scientific efforts that could spend the cost of such a mission in ways that would have a much higher chance of discovering something important. The most "bang for the buck" way that scientists can spend money to shed light on the mysterious is to simply have someone write up and publish a long honest review of the tons of important observations that most physical scientists have senselessly ignored. The second most "bang for the buck" way for scientists to spend money is by doing simple easy-to-run experiments of a type our materialist scientists refuse to perform, because they are afraid of discovering things they don't want to learn about. Loeb's scheme is one of the least "bang for the buck" proposals I have ever heard of. Very few or no one will ever be persuaded that barely visible specks dredged from the sea are evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence.
Pitching this project in an email quoted here, Loeb says that the sea speck search project "could confirm the interstellar origin of this meteor independent of its speed based on its composition being different from solar system objects." That makes it sound like he isn't actually sure the object is of interstellar origin, and needs to try to confirm such a suspicion. But it makes no sense at all to think that you could determine the interstellar origin of a meteor by dredging up highly scattered specks of material only a tenth of a millimeter in size. There would be no way to tell which of those specks came from the meteor. And since no one has ever analyzed the composition of an interstellar meteor or interstellar spaceship, there would be no way to reliably judge that some specks had the characteristic composition of an interstellar meteor or interstellar spaceship. Loeb's sea speck search scheme makes no sense at all.