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Micrometeorites

The Joy of Not Knowing: New Micrometeorite Candidate NMM 4018

Six years ago, before the discovery of the fresh (urban) micrometeorites, the reference collections consisted of old micrometeorites from Antarctica. These particles from space are weathered on the outside, so in most cases their visual appearance is not enough for identification and verification. Instead it is necessary to analyze the inner structures in an electron microscope.

Now that we have learned what fresh micrometeorites look like, the study of these enigmatic particles has radically changed. With two exceptions:

First, the rare iron (I-type) micrometeorites. These particles cannot be distinguished from anthropogenic iron oxide spherules generated in industrial processes, unless platinum group nuggets are detected in a chemical analysis.

Secondly, completely melted glass or vitreous (V-type) micrometeorites without metal beads and recrystallization. These cosmic dust grains have been heated so much during atmospheric entry that all metal has evaporated and the result is a non-magnetic glass spherule. From the Antarctic collections, we know that up to 20% of micrometeorites may be of this type.

In urban collections, however, these glass spherules are rare. Both because they are not magnetic and because similar looking spherules from mineral wool, such as that found in insulation, is rather common in urban dust, at least in temperate zones. An energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) analysis in the electron microscope can confirm a chondritic spectrum (content), which is a clear indicator of extraterrestrial origin.

Cosequently, in the case of the ~0.2 mm olive green glass spherule in the photo at the top of this post, I simply cannot know wether it is extraterrestrial or not. It is what we call a “micrometeorite candidate”, an object of unknown origin optimistically designated as NMM 4018, which has been put aside for future analysis. The spherule was found in the rain gutter of a school at Tårup, Funen, Denmark.

Guessing or believing one way or the other will not be of any help. I call this uncertainty the joy of not knowing; a moment of Zen. Note by the way, the small gas vesicles inside the object.

Shortly I’ll analyze the candidate in the electron microscope lab and then we’ll find out whether or not this fascinating spherule is of extraterrestrial origin. Meanwhile, if you want to find out more about micrometeorites, I recommend that you study the comprehensive “Atlas of Micrometeorites”. If you have questions or perhaps a comment, which are both appreciated, please leave it under this post on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and I’ll answer asap. Enjoy!

Yours truly,

Jon

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

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FIREBALL: Visitors from Darker Worlds

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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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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.

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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