Posted by: T. Boyd | March 16, 2009

Micrometeorites in the Snow (part II)

(Photo on Steve Spangler's blog)

(This article submitted to Caroline Progress)
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
Isaiah 55:10-11

I read years ago that you can find meteorites right in your own yard.  And I finally have done so, even though they are so small that a microscope is needed to see them.

What are meteorites?  Usually that term describes meteors (“falling stars”) that have partially survived their fiery entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.  Most of these “rocks” are very dense and a good percentage of these are attracted to magnets because they contain iron.

Scientists state that hundreds of tons of this outer space material fall to the earth every year.   And most of this material is in the form of micrometeorites: dust-size particles that are best seen under the microscope.  A lot of these contain iron and are easy to separate from “earth dust” by a magnet.

Which brings me to how I have found some the last few weeks.  Rain and snow are good sources for these alien particles because rain drops and snow flakes usually form around a nucleus of dust in the atmosphere, and hence are likely to contain a micrometeorite.

My procedure is to put out a clean mixing bowl to let it fill with snow or rain and then pour the resulting water through a coffee filter.  The filter is then laid on a plate to dry – I usually use a toaster oven to speed up this part.

Next I take a sticky note and lightly run the sticky edge over the filter paper, hoping to “capture” the residual dust.  I then put this under a microscope using a glass slide atop it to help keep the paper flat.

The search through the dozens of particles is a little tedious, but when I happen upon a particle that is round and shiny, as those in the photo, then I feel pretty sure I have found a micrometeorite, especially if it tends to move when I bring a small magnet up close.  I have thus far found about half a dozen tiny, round, black, shiny particles – all less than 1/10 of a millimeter in diameter. (I put a scale in the microscope view to estimate that).

I continue to stand amazed at the variety of wonders in all of creation.  It is a great time to be alive and search for these hidden mysteries.

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