By contributing writer Colleen
The earth is constantly bombarded by objects and dust from space. Most people think of meteorites as large chunks of rock and metal that fall to our planet, burning through the atmosphere, crashing and leaving large craters wherever they fall. While large meteors do make it through our atmosphere to the earth’s surface from time to time, that’s the exception rather than the rule.
photo credit: scienceatlife via photopin cc
However, tons of rocky and metallic micrometeorites fall from space to our earth every day. A micrometeorite is space rock or dust that is smaller than 2mm wide. Since you’ll likely never have a large meteorite land in your backyard, you might want to focus your search on these tiny pieces of space.
Collecting micrometeorites can be a fun little hobby to try your hand at. But, while collecting them is actually quite easy, identifying them is another matter altogether.
When you’re ready to search for micrometeorites, gather the following materials to make it easier. Keep in mind that you need to set your collection container outside for about a week.
How to Find Micrometeorites
- large pan or bowl
- glass beaker of distilled water
- strong magnet
- plastic bag
- stove top
- microscope with slides
- Start by setting a large pan or bowl outside for a few days. The larger the surface area of your collection pan, the better. It also helps if you leave it outside for a while–about a week is good.
- Put your magnet inside the plastic bag.
- Drag it through your collection pan. (Note: If it rained while you had your pan outside, that’s fine. This will still work.)
- Place your bag into the beaker of distilled water and shake it gently after removing the magnet. Any particles should sink to the bottom.
- Holding the beaker with tongs, heat it over the stove top until the water has eveaporated. Let it cool.
- Once it’s cooled, drag the needle 50-100 times in the same direction across the magnet to magnetize it.
- Gently swirl the magnetized needle across the bottom and sides of the beaker.
- Tap the needle onto a microscope slide.
- Observe the sediment under the microscope.
Micrometeorites will look metallic or black. They’ll be glassy and probably spherical, though they could be found in other shapes. Not everything you find will actually be from space but a good portion of your collection will be.
Keep your micrometeorites in a small glass jar, and pull them out from time to time to look at under the microscope. And keep collecting.
Do you have any unusual collections already? What do you think of this hobby?
That is SO cool! We will definitely have to try that. I seem to remember reading something a long time ago about being able to collect micrometeorites by dragging a magnet through the rain gutters on your house… gonna have to Google around a bit now…