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Micrometeorites

Micrometeorites with Large Metal Beads

There is a persistent misconception that micrometeorites are small metal spheres. And everywhere we sample for cosmic dust with a magnet, even in desolate areas far from industry, we do find small iron oxide spherules. These, however, are human-made, or anthropogenic particles that are redistributed by wind and atmospheric jet streams.

Most cosmic spherules are rocky, small aerodynamic rocks, composed mainly of magnesium silicates (forsterite) crystals with magnetite in between. Often these “Christmas tree” crystals are what makes the micrometeorite magnetic, enabling star hunters to search for them with a magnet.

From the Antarctic reference collection of micrometeorites (Susan Taylor et al., 2011), we know that approximately one percent of micrometeorites are so called iron (I-type) spherules. This is iron oxide, composed of the minerals magnetite and/or wüstite, like the omnipresent industrial spherules. For the time being the only distinguishing criterion between the two is the presence of small platinum group nuggets. These can sometimes be detected on extraterrestrial spherules by using electron microscope analysis (EDS). One such micrometeorite can be seen in this new collage, at the top of this post in the middle row on the right.

On some micrometeoroids the constituting nickel-iron has undergone an elemental differentiation which then accumulated into a metal bead. During atmospheric deceleration, the bead often migrates to the surface of the micrometeoroid. These are the beautiful “golden pearls” we sometimes can see in the front of cosmic spherules or, if the micrometeoroid had spin during atmospheric entry, a bit off the symmetrical axis. However, the location of the bead is always consistent with the laws of aerodynamics. Which is why the placement of a metal bead may hold the key to distinguishing a human-made industrial spherule from an extraterrestrial one. This is explained in detail in the books available in the Project Stardust bookstore, which are recommended.

At times, the metal bead is larger than usual, and the enclosed collage is a collection of such rarities. On five of these micrometeorites (NMM 976, NMM 3177, NMM 3655, NMM 3999, NMM 2842) the metal bead is surrounded by a thin coating of shiny sulfide, which forms a so-called rim. Since viscous iron sulfide is rapidly weathered, the presence of an intact sulfide rim is an indication of short terrestrial age. These micrometeorites are fresh from space!

In the middle of the top row is micrometeorite NMM 3324, which has a large nickel-iron bead with a thin partial coating of olivine crystals. The difference between the I-type in the middle row, right, is striking.

NMM 3324 is a norwegian micrometeorite from Askim Continental discovered and photographed by Project Stardust founder Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle
NMM 3324 is a norwegian micrometeorite from Askim Continental discovered and photographed by Project Stardust founder Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle. © Project Stardust, 2023.

The yellow-green glass (V-type) micrometeorite NMM 2000 in the centre of the collage is also interesting, because here we can see the entire metal core inside the stone. It constitutes approximately one third of the stone and has a particular surface texture. Still sealed inside the extraterrestrial glass, this is unaltered by terrestrial weathering. The same texture can also be observed on the large metal bead of NMM 338, in the middle of the bottom row.

NMM 2000 is a glass micrometeorite from Alf Bjerckes vei 26 Norway discovered and photographed by Project Stardust founder Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle
NMM 2000 is a glass micrometeorite from Alf Bjerckes vei 26 Norway discovered and photographed by Project Stardust founder Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle. © Project Stardust, 2023.
NMM 338 is a micrometeorite with a large metal bead, discovered and photographed by Project Stardust Founder Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle Elverum, Norway.
NMM 338 is a micrometeorite with a large metal bead, discovered and photographed by Project Stardust Founder Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle Elverum, Norway. © Project Stardust, 2023.

NMM 2264 is an olive green glass (V-type) micrometeorite measuring approximately 0.3 mm with a large nickel-iron bead in the front. The metal bead has a discrete sulfide rim on one side, to the right in the photo. The stone show no sign of crystallization around the metal bead, which is rare, so it was confirmed ET via chemical analysis. 

NMM 2264 is a glass micrometeorite from Lilleaker Norway discovered and photographed by Project Stardust Founder Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle
NMM 2264 is a glass micrometeorite from Lilleaker Norway discovered and photographed by Project Stardust Founder Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle. © Project Stardust, 2023.

NMM 3177 is a barred olivine (BO-type) micrometeorite with a large metal bead in the front, which is in the middle of the photo. It is also the subject of a featured post on the Project Stardust blog. The metal is surrounded by a partially weathered sulfide rim. The irony is that this stone was found on the roof of the Norwegian Oil Department, where a large number of skilled geologists are working who joined me for the field search on the roof. They were shocked when they got the results of the search right above their heads; no less than nine beautiful stardust particles!

Barred olivine micrometeorite NMM 3177 discovered and photographed by Project Stardust founder Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle
Barred olivine micrometeorite NMM 3177 discovered and photographed by Project Stardust founder Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle. © Project Stardust, 2022.

NMM 976 is a rare green barred olivine micrometeorite with a rare partial green glass area. It is described in detail in a featured post on the Project Stardust blog.

NMM 976 is a composite glass and barred olivine micrometeorite discovered and photographed by Project Stardust founder Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle
NMM 976 is a composite glass and barred olivine micrometeorite discovered and photographed by Project Stardust founder Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle

It is interesting how the ratio between nickel-iron and rocky silicate is an echo of Earth itself, with its metal core and stoney mantle. How come this chemical spectrum is found in every single grain of dust in space? The explanation is as intriguing as it is simple; the dust was here first. Earth, the oceans, the atmosphere, and everything on our precious blue marble, including ourselves, are made of stardust.

Come say “Hallo!” on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Yours truly,

Jon Larsen

P.S. The catalogue IDs for the micrometeorites in this post’s collage are, from top to bottom and left to right: NMM 976, NMM 3324, NMM 3177, NMM 2842, NMM 2000, NMM 2807, NMM 3655, NMM 338, NMM 3999.

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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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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