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TREASURES FROM SPACE

Micrometeorites

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LIMITED EDITION ART BOOK

The Atlas of Micrometeorites

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Learn About Micrometeorites

INTRO

Shapes

Types

Size

What is a micrometeorite?

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Micrometeorites are mineral remnants from before the planets were formed. While most are particles shed by asteroids and comets, some are older than the Sun, and others have traveled  to Earth from the outermost reaches of space.

Of course, when most people think of extraterrestrial rocks colliding with the Earth, they picture large asteroids and meteorites screaming through the atmosphere that, at best, attract the innocent attention of onlookers or, at worst, cause extreme destruction. However, these events are actually quite rare and, thankfully, reality stands in striking contrast to this erroneous belief.

In fact, approximately 100 metric tonnes of stardust, which is composed mainly of micrometeorites, floats gently down to the surface of the Earth every moment of every day.

As you go about your day, experts estimate that when you are outside, you are never more than 3 ft away from a micrometeorite.

Project Stardust founder Jon Larsen's extraordinary contribution to the scientific study of micrometeorites cannot be understated. His collection, which now exceeds 4000 specimens, is providing scientists with valuable insights and opportunities for new discoveries.

Jon Larsen is a lecturer at the University of Oslo and also travels extensively to share his work with universities, institutions, and interest groups around the world. He also recently joined the Gözen Research Group, which studies the origins of life and protocells.

The dramatic story of Jon's discovery of the first urban micrometeorite, NMM (Norwegian micrometeorite) 1, is told in his book, "Star Hunter".

Jon's book, "How to Find Stardust", shows you how to collect and photograph your very own stardust.

Jon Larsen and Jan Braly Kihle's groundbreaking artbook, "The Atlas of Micrometeorites", includes over 500 high resolution colour photographs of urban micrometeorites in astounding detail.

Most micrometeorites take the form of a spherule, or rounded ball-shaped particle. This formation is common because the sphere is nature's most efficient solution for maximizing volume while minimizing surface area.

During the descent from space, unmelted micrometeoroids (the naming convention for microscopic particles in space) are heated by friction, liquified, then slowly shaped into a spherule as surface tension bends the object into a ball.

The continuous effect of friction also causes deceleration, which in turn, solidifies the particle as it wafts to Earth at an exceptionally slow terminal velocity.

One notable variation of the spherule form that has quite a distinct aesthetic, is the turtleback. Turtleback micrometeorites typically have several layers with characteristic mountain-like formations throughout composed of olivine crystals.  It is important to note that cosmic particles of this form are exclusively classified as cryptocrystalline micrometeorites.  (Click here or scroll down to learn more about micrometeorite types.)

The second most common micrometeorite shape is a droplet, or a sphere shape with an attached tail. It is postulated that micrometeoroids form droplets when the atmospheric entry speed of a particle exceeds 3000 m/s.

This hypervelocity is thought to have a dramatic effect on the molten material of the micrometeoroid and if the particle also has a rapid spin perpendicular to the direction of movement, a droplet or tail may form. It is during the frictional flash heating when the G-forces elongate the rock into a dumbbell shape. Remarkably, current models show the force can become so extreme that the droplet snaps in the middle, resulting in a pair of droplets.

During the subsequent deceleration and cooling, crystallization is triggered by dense material in the thick end. Even without spin, the micrometeoroid may possibly form a tail due to elemental differentiation and inertia during atmospheric deceleration.

Certainly other forms of micrometeorites are found, but these are much less common and are frequently a subtle variation of either a spherule or droplet.

What shapes do micrometeorites come in?

MICROMETEORITE FORMS

How are micrometeorites classified?

MICROMETEORITE TYPES

In 2008, a brilliant group of scientists led by Dr. Matthew Genge published a revolutionary paper titled "The classification of micrometeorites".

Prior to this article, micrometeorites had been grouped based on assumptions about parentage that were derived from mineralogical and chemical properties of micrometeorites. In short, the old identification scheme presumed that the composition of a micrometeorite would be the same as the composition of its parent body. 

The paper comments that micrometeorite properties are unlikely to be representative of parent bodies because of how tiny micrometeorites are. Essentially, a micrometeorite is an exceptionally tiny sample size of its parent body and this vast size difference makes it impossible to draw any valid conclusions about the composition of its parent body.

The authors assert that this fact alone makes a classification scheme based on parentage impractical and then present a new classification scheme.

Genge and colleague's "unified classification system for micrometeorites" is now the most widely accepted scheme used by scientists in the field today.

Here at Project Stardust, we strongly encourage you to read Genge et al.'s original paper, which is linked at the beginning of this section. For fun and for those who may want a quick look at the different micrometeorite types, we've created a brief summary below. Enjoy!

Glass
(Vitreous)

V-Type  |  [nmm 1448]

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

Crypto-crystalline

CC-Type  |  [NMM 1359]

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.

Barred
Olivine

BO-Type  |  [nmm 1]

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. 

Porphyritic Olivine

PO-Type  |  [NMM 1149]

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.


Scoriaceous

SC-Type  |  [nmm 1271]

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.

Other
Types

C-/I-/CAT-Type  |  [NMM 1927]

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.

These exceptionally rare and beautiful micrometeorites range in color, shape, and composition.

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MM TYPES

How big are micrometeorites?

MICROMETEORITE SIZES

Most micrometeorites have a size of approximately 300 microns (µm) or 0.3 mm. For your reference, this is approximately the size as a grain of sand!

Even though the vast majority of micrometeorites have this size, there certainly are both smaller and larger ones.

On one end of the spectrum are particles measuring under 50 µm (0.05 mm) — approximately the thickness of a human hair! As you might imagine, these micrometeorites are extremely difficult to identify under a light microscope. In fact, their delicate features and surface characteristics are difficult to analyze even with powerful technology. Consequently, Jon Larsen concentrates on spherules larger than 100 µm (0.1 mm).

At the other end of the spectrum, a micrometeorite larger than 500 µm (0.5 mm) is considered to be a giant, and when it approaches twice that size, a supergiant. Though I have collected thousands of micrometeorites, I have only collected a handful of giants and supergiants, as both are exceptionally rare.

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We're so glad you're here.

Your curiosity means the world to us.

Many years ago when Jon Larsen began his search for stardust in an urban environment, many believed that the task was simply impossible. There were too many terrestrial lookalikes and, after all, many wonderful scientists had tried and failed for decades.

In 2015, Norwegian jazz guitarist, Jon Larsen, discovered the world's first urban micrometeorite. Since then, his legendary friendship with minerologist, Jan Braly Kihle, has produced the world's most spectacular high resolution images of micrometeorites — in  breathtaking color.

Many years ago when Jon Larsen began his search for stardust in an urban environment, many believed that the task was simply impossible. There were too many terrestrial imposters and, after all, many wonderful scientists had tried and failed for nearly one hundred years.

In 2015, Norwegian jazz guitarist, Jon Larsen, discovered the world's first urban micrometeorite. Since then, his legendary friendship with minerologist, Jan Braly Kihle, has produced the world's most spectacular high resolution images of micrometeorites -- in  breathtaking color.

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To you we say, "Welcome!"; "Thank you!"; and "Believe in the impossible!"

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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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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.

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.

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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.

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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