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Micrometeorites

Micrometeorites that Retained their Beads Just in the Nick of Time

Since the discovery of the Antarctic micrometeorites, scanning electron microscope (SEM) images have documented how nickel-iron beads form by elemental differentiation in the core of a cosmic particle during atmospheric entry. These valuable images also show how a dense metal bead may migrate forward in the direction of speed by inertia during the subsequent deceleration. In most cases the nickel-iron bead is held back by surface tension during solidification and ends its journey visible on the surface as a beautiful metal pearl at the front. Or in the case of rapid spin during atmospheric entry, divided and migrated by centrifugal force out to the extremities.

Alternatively, the G-force during atmospheric deceleration is enough for the metal bead to escape the micrometeoroid entirely and leave a crater-like hole on the surface. These holes appear frequently, especially on barred olivine (BO-type) micrometeorites. And most often they are easy to distinguish from holes that formed due to escaping volatiles, known as gas vesicles.

Micrometeorite NMM 4030 is a small cryptocrystalline (CC-type) “turtleback” variety measuring a very slight 0.15 mm, which was found in the rain gutter of the local children’s school in Denmark last month. In Photo 1 we can see the beautiful aerodynamic symmetry of the little space rock. The front is up, and if we look closely at Photo 2, we will see a small “crater” from where a metal bead has fallen off. This probably happened during formation, at the very last moment before solidification. So somewhere in the neighborhood I suppose there is a loose ten micron nickel-iron bead that is stirred up in the road dust, stuck in a gutter, or resting on a rooftop. If the metal pearl had remained attached to the stone, it would have been similar to the micrometeorite in Photo 3.

PHOTO 1, NMM 4030

NMM 4030 is a cryptocrystalline micrometeorite with missing a metal bead discovered and photographed by Project Stardust founder Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle
Photo 1: NMM 4030 is a cryptocrystalline micrometeorite with missing a metal bead discovered and photographed by Project Stardust founder Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle. © Project Stardust, 2022.

PHOTO 2, Detailed View of NMM 4030

Detail view of NMM 4030 is a cryptocrystalline micrometeorite discovered and photographed by Project Stardust founder Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle
Photo 2: Detail view of NMM 4030 is a cryptocrystalline micrometeorite discovered and photographed by Project Stardust founder Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle. © Project Stardust, 2022.

PHOTO 3, NMM 244

NMM 244 is a cryptocrystalline micrometeorite discovered and photographed by Project Stardust founder Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle
Photo 3: NMM 244 is a cryptocrystalline micrometeorite discovered and photographed by Project Stardust founder Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle.

In rare cases, however, we can observe a middle-stage between micrometeorites with a metal bead on the surface, and the ones with a hole where a bead has escaped. Here the metal bead has almost escaped the particle but has reached solidus and was held back just in the nick of time. We can see in the color photo by Jan Kihle and I that the bead appears to be “glued” to the stone by iron sulfide. If solidification had occurred just one millisecond later, the micrometeorite would have lost its nickel-iron bead.

A collection of these rarities is shown in the collage at the top of this post. This is, to my knowledge, the first presentation of this phenomenon, and we can see that the micrometeorites presented have several things in common. For instance, the placement of the almost loose metal bead slightly off the symmetrical length axis.

I would like to extend my special thanks to the four other micrometeorite researchers who let me include their rare findings together with my own in the collage presented as the featured image of this blog entry: Jon Wallace (top left), Thilo Hasse (top right), Jesus Cejas (bottom left), Dusty Segretto (middle center), and Scott Peterson (middle left, middle right, bottom center, and bottom right). The age of stardust is now, as always.

Do you collect micrometeorites? Connect with our community on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Your questions and comments bring me such joy!

Yours truly,

Jon Larsen

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!

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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

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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.

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The Atlas of Micrometeorites provides an INVALUABLE RESOURCE
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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.

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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.

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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.

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