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Micrometeorites

Searching for micrometeorites in Denmark

After my discovery of the first micrometeorites in Denmark this past August, I was invited back for lectures last month. Since this is new in Denmark, many people were surprised that it is possible to find extraterrestrial rocks almost everywhere. Some scientific researchers still doubted that this is possible, but after a lecture with Q&A afterwards, some of them turned into new star hunters. This conversion is wonderful, because we need a lot more research on these amazing particles if we ever are going to find out where and when they come from; and if they played a role in how life began on Earth. More about that later.

Photo 1: NMM 4028 is a barred olivine micrometeorite discovered by Project Stardust Founder Jon Larsen in Tårup (Firkløverskolen), Denmark. Photo by Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle. © Project Stardust, 2022.
Photo 1: NMM 4028 is a barred olivine micrometeorite discovered by Project Stardust Founder Jon Larsen in Tårup (Firkløverskolen), Denmark. Photo by Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle. © Project Stardust, 2022.

To me, one of the most interesting lectures was for children, age six to ten (Photo 2). At that age, they are all scientists, and sometimes ask important questions grownups have lost their imagination to raise. Like, what happens if we eat stardust? 

Project Stardust Founder Jon Larsen gives a lecture to school children in Denmark about micrometeorites. © Project Stardust, 2022.
Photo 2: Project Stardust Founder Jon Larsen gives a lecture to school children in Denmark about micrometeorites. © Project Stardust, 2022.

After the lecture I asked for permission to search for stardust in the school’s rain gutter (Photos 3 and 4). In a couple of hours I had collected three large plastic sacks with approximately twenty kilograms of “dirt” in each (Photos 5 and 6). Why from the rain gutter, and not from the ground? Experience shows that the signal-to-noise ratio is slightly better up there, with a bit less manmade micrometeorite lookalikes. It is simply easier to find stardust on elevated surfaces, such as roofs or gutters.

Project Stardust Founder Jon Larsen hunts for micrometeorites on the rooftop of a school in Denmark. © Project Stardust, 2022.
Photo 3: Project Stardust Founder Jon Larsen hunts for micrometeorites on the rooftop of a school in Denmark. © Project Stardust, 2022.
Project Stardust Founder Jon Larsen uses simple household tools to search for micrometeorites in the rain gutters of a Danish school. © Project Stardust, 2022.
Photo 4: Project Stardust Founder Jon Larsen uses simple household tools to search for micrometeorites in the rain gutters of a Danish school. © Project Stardust, 2022.
Project Stardust Founder Jon Larsen shares his first sack of debris collected from the rooftop of a school in Denmark. © Project Stardust, 2022.
Photo 5: Project Stardust Founder Jon Larsen shares his first sack of debris collected from the rooftop of a school in Denmark. © Project Stardust, 2022.
Project Stardust Founder Jon Larsen shows 60 kg of material from the rain gutters of a school in Denmark that is ready to be cleaned. This debris contains the first Danish micrometeorites. © Project Stardust, 2022.
Photo 6: Project Stardust Founder Jon Larsen shows 60 kg of material from the rain gutters of a school in Denmark that is ready to be cleaned. This debris contains the first Danish micrometeorites. © Project Stardust, 2022.

Later, when I got home, I cleaned the sixty kilograms of dirt from the rain gutter (Photo 7), and ended up with approximately twenty-five kilograms of mineral particles. The remaining thirty-five kilograms were washed away as organic compounds and fine-grained particles smaller than 0.1 mm. The process of cleansing and refining is described step-by-step in my book How To Find Stardust

Photo 7: This bucket contains 60 kg of material collected by Project Stardust Founder Jon Larsen in Denmark. Among this debris are the very first Danish micrometeorites. © Project Stardust, 2022.
Photo 7: This bucket contains 25 kg of cleansed material, reduced from the original 60 kg sample collected by Project Stardust Founder Jon Larsen in Denmark. Among this debris are the very first Danish micrometeorites. © Project Stardust, 2022.

After drying, the particles were screened for size before the magnetic extraction. In Photos 8 and 9 you can see the five size fractions, and the one gram of magnetic extraction. That is a reduction to 1/60,000 of the initial mass from the roof. After a couple of hours of microscopy, the yield was clear; I had discovered no less than 23 new Danish micrometeorites. All the common types were present: glass (V-type), cryptocrystalline (CC-type), barred olivine (BO-type), porphyritic olivine (PO-type), and scoriaceous (SC-type). Nine of them are in the new collage of photos by Jan Braly Kihle and me at the top of this post (Photo 10).

Photo showing different sizes of dust collected by Project Stardust Founder Jon Larsen in Denmark and how many micrometeorites were collected for each size range. © Project Stardust, 2022.
Photo 8: Different sizes of dust collected by Project Stardust Founder Jon Larsen in Denmark and how many micrometeorites were collected for each size range. © Project Stardust, 2022.
A plate filled with particles from the magnetic extraction of samples collected in Denmark by Project Stardust Founder Jon Larsen. © Project Stardust, 2022.
Photo 9: A plate filled with particles with diameters between 0.1 and 0.5 mm from the magnetic extraction of samples collected in Denmark by Project Stardust Founder Jon Larsen. © Project Stardust, 2022.

Nine of the new micrometeorites were found in the 0.2 to 0.4 mm range and the remaining fourteen were smaller in size.

The following day, I drove to Copenhagen to meet Professor Martin Bizzarro, and we teamed up on a new scientific micrometeorite project which we will keep you updated on here at the Project Stardust blog. These are exciting times indeed, and we welcome all new Danish star hunters. Enjoy!

Yours truly,

Jon Larsen

University of Copenhagen researcher Dr. Martin Bizzarro holding books by Project Stardust founder Jon Larsen
University of Copenhagen researcher Dr. Martin Bizzarro with the two of Jon Larsen’s books about urban micrometeorites. © Project Stardust, 2022.

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

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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
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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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