In search of stardust: finding micro-meteorites on your roof

Seven years ago Jon Larsen was preparing to eat his breakfast outside at his home in Norway when a meteorite slammed onto his patio table.

But the meteorite didn’t do any damage, because it was the size of a piece of dust.

Larsen says he would have never even seen the micrometeorite if he hadn’t washed off the table a moment before.

He turned away for an instant, and when he looked back he saw a tiny speck twinkling on the table.

“It had just fallen from the sky. It was so intriguing,” he said.

With a background in mineralogy, Larsen began to investigate and came to the conclusion that it was a speck of space dust or micrometeorite, and is on a quest to find more.

“They are so small you can barely see them. You can feel it with your finger. They are remnants from the solar nebula that once created the solar system, or it could be parts of a comet. They are part of the oldest matter you can ever touch,” he said.

Despite their tiny size of .3 millimetres in diameter or less, Larsen believes there are 100 metric tonnes of space dust falling from space onto the Earth every day. He estimates that each year a micrometeorite falls on each square metre around the planet.

Larsen says anyone can find micrometeorites with just a few simple tools and a technique he outlines on his Project Stardust Facebook page.

He says the best place to search is a flat roof or rain gutter. Sweep any debris together. Then by using a plastic bag around a strong magnet you pull out the magnetic pieces which should include any micrometeorites. Those magnetic bits are then sifted through a tea sieve to sort out the larger pieces.

There’s a good chance that some of the tinier pieces that fall through the sieve are micrometeorites said Larson.

By using a microscope, you should be able to determine whether or not you found a bit of space dust.

“Micrometeorites are very, very beautiful,” said Larson. “They look sometimes like the most modern cars designed in wind tunnels. They might have nickel or shiny beads on the surface. They’re just very beautiful.”

Hundreds of images of micrometeorites are documented in Larson’s book “In Search of Stardust.”

“It just makes me happy,” he said. “I’m very interested in it…finding the oldest particles that are in the solar system….it’s intriguing.”

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