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An Asteroid Impact Dating Back 790,000 Years May Shed Light on Seafloor Spherules

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Our solar system does not exist in isolation. It formed within a stellar nursery along with hundreds of sibling stars, and even today has the occasional interaction with interstellar objects such as Oumuamua and Borisov. So it’s reasonable to presume that some interstellar material has reached Earth. Recently, Dr. Avi Loeb and his team gained significant attention with a study proposing that they had found evidence of interstellar material on the ocean seabed. However, a new study challenges this claim, suggesting a more local origin for the discovered material.

The original study was based on a 2014 meteor that entered the Earth’s atmosphere off the coast of Papua New Guinea. The trajectory of this meteor led researchers to speculate that it may have had an extraterrestrial origin. Subsequently, the team led by Dr. Loeb examined the seafloor near Papua New Guinea and discovered small, iron-rich spheres known as spherules. Detailed analysis of the spherules’ composition revealed an unusual isotope distribution that hinted towards an interstellar origin.

origin
The iron isotopes of these spherules show a local origin. Credit: Desch, et al

Nevertheless, there are some important caveats to consider. Firstly, the exact trajectory of the 2014 meteor is not precisely determined, casting doubt on the direct link between the spherules and this specific extraterrestrial object. Secondly, the presence of “unusual” isotopes in these spherules is not unique to interstellar origins, as demonstrated by the wide variation in iron isotope ratios within our solar system. The new study reveals that the isotope ratios of the spherules fall well within the established range for solar system objects, making the likelihood of an interstellar origin less than 1 in 10,000.

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Further investigation led the researchers to explore the possibility of a local impact event as the source of these spherules. They identified a known impact that occurred 790,000 years ago in the region, causing what is known as the Australasian tektite strewn field. By examining additional isotope ratios, they concluded that the composition of the spherules aligns with other materials found within the Australasian tektite strewn field.

While these specific spherules appear to have a local origin, this does not discount the existence of interstellar meteorites on Earth. The search for such objects continues, as there is a high probability that interstellar material has indeed reached our planet. Future studies and observations will be crucial in furthering our understanding of cosmic interactions with Earth.

Reference: Loeb, A., et al. “Recovery and Classification of Spherules from the Pacific Ocean Site of the CNEOS 2014 January 8 (IM1) Bolide.” Research Notes of the AAS 8.1 (2024): 39.

Reference: Desch, Steve. “Be, La, U-rich spherules as microtektites of terrestrial laterites: What goes up must come down.” arXiv preprint arXiv:2403.05161 (2024).

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Black couple overcomes racism to rent to Chinese family, who show gratitude by paying rent.

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Decades ago, in the early 1900s, racism and discriminatory housing practices plagued the town of Coronado, barring many individuals from living in certain neighborhoods based on their race. In the midst of this oppressive era, an inspiring story of resilience and generosity unfolded between two families — the Thompsons, a Black couple, and the Dongs, a Chinese family.

Gus and Emma Thompson, who were among the few Black families to own property in Coronado before racial restrictions took hold, defied the norms of the time by renting their house to the Dong family. Lloyd Dong Sr., a Chinese immigrant, and his wife found solace in the Thompsons’ willingness to offer them a place to call home despite the racist barriers they faced.

Fast forward 85 years later, the sons of Lloyd Dong Sr., Ron Dong, and Lloyd Dong Jr., have decided to pay forward the kindness shown to their family by donating $5 million from the sale of the house they eventually owned to San Diego State University’s Black Resource Center. This generous gift will help expand scholarships for Black students and fund renovations at the center, creating a lasting impact on the community.

Exterior view of a single-story home

The Dongs’ family house in Coronado, originally the home of the Thompsons.

(Courtesy of Janice Dong)

This heartwarming tale of intergenerational gratitude highlights the resilience and spirit of unity that transcends racial boundaries. Brandon Gamble, the director of the Black Resource Center, expressed the profound impact of this donation on the community, emphasizing the importance of stories that challenge racism and foster a sense of camaraderie.

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Reflecting on the legacy of his father and the Thompsons, Ron Dong shared, “That was the big plus for our family, because it has made all the difference for us.” The intertwined histories of the Thompson and Dong families serve as a testament to the power of empathy and solidarity in the face of adversity.

Gus Thompson’s journey from slavery to becoming a respected community leader in Coronado, coupled with Emma Thompson’s advocacy for civil rights, exemplifies the resilience and determination of marginalized communities to thrive in the face of oppression.

Gus Thompson in 1947.

Gus Thompson in 1947.

(Norman Baynard Collection / San Diego History Center)

The legacy of allyship and support exemplified by the Thompsons extends to their willingness to assist Asian Americans facing similar discriminatory practices. This act of solidarity echoes the sentiment that in times of oppression, helping others regardless of race is not just a gesture but a necessity.

As the Dong family embraced their new home in Coronado, overcoming discrimination and forging their path to homeownership, they carried forward the spirit of resilience and unity shown to them by the Thompsons. The bond between these two families serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration in a society marred with division and prejudice.

The Hotel del Coronado, a Victorian-style beach resort outside San Diego, and tent city on the beach, 1908.

The Hotel del Coronado, a Victorian-style beach resort outside San Diego, and a tent city on the beach, 1908.

(Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images)

The resilience and determination displayed by the Dong family in the face of discrimination, coupled with their unwavering commitment to education and community upliftment, exemplify the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. The decision to give back to the community through education underscores the transformative power of generosity and empathy in creating a more inclusive and equitable society.

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As the Dongs’ generous donation paves the way for future generations to access educational opportunities and resources, their story serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration for all who strive to overcome adversity and champion unity in the face of division.

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