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What do micrometeorites look like?

When I started to search for micrometeorites in 2009, one big question I confronted was what do they look like? Judging from the scientific publications at the time, illustrated with black and white scanning electron microscope (SEM) section images like the one below, they seemed to be subspherical. And the texts emphasized the presence of iron oxides magnetite and wüstite, so I imagined they were small metallic balls, which I searched for in the urban dust. Seven years later, when I finally broke the code and started to find real micrometeorites, I was surprised to learn that they were by no means metal spheres, but aerodynamic stones.

Since then, I have found more than four thousand micrometeorites, including under-documented varieties of extraterrestrial material. The best part? My work has inspired other collectors to take up the hunt. The variation seems endless, and nobody could have prepared me for the strange micrometeorites we find today.

One example that comes to mind is the recently found NMM 4002, a barred olivine (BO-type) micrometeorite measuring approximately 0.3 mm. To me, it looks like an inverted ice cream cone with two scoops. What happened here?

Perhaps we can find out, because as of yesterday we have got a new project started up with the brilliant astrophysicist Dr. Roar Skartlien from the Institute for Energy Technology (IFE). We are going to model the formation of micrometeorites varying entry speed, temperature, entry mass, entry angle, and so on.

We welcome Dr. Skartlien to our team and look forward to sharing the results with you here at Project Stardust. Make sure you connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay up to date with this exciting research! Enjoy!

Yours truly,

Jon Larsen

A scanning electron microscope cross section of a micrometeorite by Matthew Genge and Jon Larsen 2017
The traditional way of depicting micrometeorites: High resolution but it does not give any clue about what it looks like on the outside. This is one of the polished SEM images from a scientific paper published by Matthew Genge and myself, Jon Larsen.

2017 Research Paper Citation:

M.J. Genge, J. Larsen, M. Van Ginneken, M.D. Suttle; An urban collection of modern-day large micrometeorites: Evidence for variations in the extraterrestrial dust flux through the Quaternary. Geology 2017;; 45 (2): 119–122. doi: https://doi.org/10.1130/G38352.1

Project Stardust barred olivine micrometeorite NMM 4002 discovered and photographed by Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle
The new micrometeorite NMM 4002, a barred olivine (BO) type (~0.3 mm) with a strange form. New photo by Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle. © Project Stardust, 2022. By popular demand; Our images are now available as fine art prints. You can now get a museum-quality print of your favorite stardust! Available soon, worldwide.

Just in case you're new here!

Together we have amassed the world's most expansive collection of micrometeorites and we can't wait to share it with you.

Whether you're an expert in the field, an art collector with an appetite for treasures from space, or a budding stardust enthusiast, we hope you'll enjoy learning about our work.

Connect with us on social media to share the excitement of seeing new micrometeorites for the first time!

Jon Larsen & Jan Braly Kihle

We're so glad you're here!

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WINTER 2022 COLLECTION

Meet this season's micrometeorites

This season's collection features a variety of stunning micrometeorites. From mountainous cryptocrystalline turtlebacks and bewitching glass spherules to ultra rare giants. Available for a limited time only.

NMM 1448: V-TYPE

NMM 1448:  V-TYPE

Glass / Vitreous

Glass or vitreous type (V-type) micrometeorites each a temperature of up to 2000°C (3600°F) as they descend through the atmosphere..

These delicate, translucent spherules are difficult to find due to their lack of magnetism, since most of their metals evaporated during descent. 

NMM 1359:  CC-TYPE

Crypto-crystalline

Cryptocrystalline (CC-type) micrometeorites are composed of glassy particles with fine-grained crystallites that are too small to recognize as individual grains.

Many of these magnificent spherules feature metal beads and aerodynamic forms, while others have a "turtleback" shape with humps distributed evenly around the spherule.

NMM 1359:  CC-TYPE

NMM 500:  BO-TYPE

Barred Olivine

Barred olivine (BO-type) spherules are coarse-grained  micrometeorites made of the magnesium variety of the mineral olivine, forsterite, which is punctuated with small particles of magnetite.

The surface features striations that are formed when iron reacts with oxygen in the atmosphere. 

NMM 500:  BO-TYPE

NMM 1149:  PO-TYPE

Porphyritic Olivine

Porphyritic olivine (PO-type) micrometeorites are also made of forsterite, a type of olivine that is made of magnesium.

There are many morphological varieties of this type of micrometeorite; From evenly distributed small crystals, to crystals that increase in side, to extremely large or even possibly a single olivine crystal.

NMM 1149:  PO-TYPE

NMM 1271:  Sc-TYPE

Scoriaceous

When stardust does not reach a peak temperature of at least 1350°C (2500°F) during entry and deceleration, it barely melts. Volatile elements expand and escape in the form of gas bubbles, which results in a scoriaceous (SC-type) or vesicular micrometeorite.

Micrometeorites of this type are extremely difficult to find.

NMM 1271:  SC-TYPE

NMM 1271: G-, I-, CAT-typeS

Other Types

From G-types with dark silicate glass, I-types dominated by iron, and milky CAT spherules  enriched with calcium, aluminum, and titanium, to fossil, unmelted, and un-categorized micrometeorites.

There is no question that Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle's contributions have had a dramatic effect on the field.

NMM 1271:  G-/I-/CAT-TYPES

Jon and Jan are
EXCEPTIONAL ARTISTS AND SCIENTISTS. 

Michael Zolensky

NASA JOhnson Space Center

SEM Collection

COMING SOON

Never forget: YOU ARE SURROUNDED BY STARDUST, inside and out.

Color Collection

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FIREBALL: Visitors from Darker Worlds

SEE JOn & Jan IN

From directors Werner Herzog and Clive Oppenheimer, this remarkable journey across our planet and universe explores how meteorites, shooting stars, and deep impacts have awoken our wonder about other realms-and make us rethink our destinies.

Limited Edition

The Atlas

of Micrometeorites

Never before has it been possible to see stardust in such a large format with crisp details. The 500+ color images are made possible by a new photo technology developed for this project by the author and mineralogist Jan Braly Kihle. 

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The Atlas of Micrometeorites provides an INVALUABLE RESOURCE
for stardust hunters around the world.

Matthew Genge

Imperial College, London

ORIGIN STORIES

Jon Larsen revolutionized the study of micrometeorites when he became the first person to discover a micrometeorite from an urban environment. Then a new form of art emerged when he and Jan Braly Kihle created the world's first high resolution photographs of micrometeorites in colour.

Learn about the singular moment that led to Jon's groundbreaking discovery
and the phone call that kickstarted a truly epic friendship.

Jon Larsen revolutionized the study of micrometeorites when he became the first person to discover a micrometeorite from an urban environment. Then a new form of art emerged when he and Jan Braly Kihle created the world's first high resolution photographs of micrometeorites in colour.

Learn about the singular moment that led to Jon's groundbreaking discovery and the phone call that kickstarted a truly epic friendship.

I HAVE TO KNOW

I'm ready. TEACH ME.

Micrometeorites

Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle have amassed the world's most expansive collection of urban micrometeorites and they want you to follow in their footsteps.

WORLD-RENOWNED EXPERTS ON

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HALLO and welcome!

We're Jon Larsen & Jan Braly Kihle

We are world renowned micrometeorite experts here to share our cosmic art and inspire the world to become star hunters.

STARDUST
is everywhere