A research team made headlines last week when it claimed to have scooped up from the sea floor fragments of a meteorite that came from beyond our Solar System1. Finding such an interstellar sample on Earth would be exciting because it might shed light on how planets and stars beyond our own form. But a number of scientists say that the evidence that the material came from another planetary system is not convincing so far.

Here, Nature explores how scientists identify when something is truly interstellar — and how they are preparing to study many such objects after a new telescope comes online next year.

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