Collecting micrometeorites

Great Science Class Experiment - space dust!

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Our solar system is full of miniature meteorites. Miniature is probably not the right word to describe it. Micro-miniature is more like it; literally. Micro comes from the word micron which equates to one millionth of a meter or 1/25,000 of an inch. Lets try to put that in perspective shall we? This dot (.) is approximately 1/64th of an inch wide, or 615 microns. The eye of a needle is around 1,300 microns. A micrometeorite is anywhere from 2 to 100 microns. Typically they are only a few microns in diameter. It’s true that any micrometeorite you find probably wont make a good paperweight but nonetheless they are just as exciting to find as a regular meteorite, and you will amaze your friends when you show them how smart you are by using such a scientific approach to finding and viewing your micrometeorites!

Visit http://phoxes.com for more articles like this!

Here is a neat little exercise that is
fun and makes a great science class experiment.  Try collecting samples
before and after major meteor showers and see what you can come up with!

Our solar system is full of miniature meteorites.  Miniature is
probably not the right word to describe it.  Micro-miniature is more
like it; literally.  Micro comes from the word micron which equates to
one millionth of a meter or 1/25,000 of an inch.  Lets try to put that
in perspective shall we?  This dot (.) is approximately 1/64th of an
inch wide, or 615 microns.  The eye of a needle is around 1,300
microns.  A micrometeorite is anywhere from 2 to 100 microns. 
Typically they are only a few microns in diameter.  It’s true that any
micrometeorite you find probably wont make a good paperweight but
nonetheless they are just as exciting to find as a regular meteorite,
and you will amaze your friends when you show them how smart you are by
using such a scientific approach to finding and viewing your
micrometeorites!  Check out the image below.  You will be lucky if you
find one as big as the one pictured!

Micrometeorite.jpg
*Image Courtesy NASA

A micrometeorite has a distinctive look that can make it easily
identifiable.  As they enter the atmosphere, they will have succumbed
to a short lived fiery entry; as they get in through the denser
atmosphere, the atmosphere will hold them aloft due to their light
weight.  Storms are a good time to try collecting meteors, as they get
trapped in the rain drops and fall the remaining way to earth. It’s
estimated that roughly 100 tons of micrometeorites enter the earth’s
atmosphere every day.

More micrometeorites can be found after a major meteor shower.  Try the
following exercise after a meteor shower to see if you can start up
your collection of micrometeorites.  Here is your bill of materials
needed:

distilled water.jpg
magnet.jpg
magnifying glass.jpg
microscope glass slide.jpg
Distilled Water
Magnet
Magnifying Glass
Microscope Slides
microscope.jpg
plastic pan.jpg
plastic drop cloth.jpg
ziplock bag.jpg
Microscope
Large Pan
Plastic Drop-cloth
Zip-Lock Bags
aluminumfoil.jpg
sewingneedle.jpg


Aluminum Foil
Sewing Needle



Start Collecting

Check your local forecast and when the weatherman says your in for a good shower, get your collecting items ready.

Line a large plastic pan with your plastic drop-cloth.  A plastic oil
pan will work well, but generally the larger pan you can find, the
better.  Make sure your plastic is new, and not dirty.  You should use
new plastic each time you go micrometeorite collecting.  You want to
minimize the amount of terrestrial metal you collect.  Find a wide open
area to place your plastic collecting pan.  Try to stay away from
building and trees.  It’s also best if you can keep the pan off the
ground.  An old stool will work well.

While you are waiting for the rain, you can put together your magnetic
collecting mechanism.  (Please note:  The instructions herein have been
painstakingly adapted from the text and instructions of major
rocket-scientists.  These instructions are not for the faint-of-heart. 
Please follow them closely and don’t deviate from them whatsoever as
your micrometeorite collecting efforts are greatly at stake!).  Put
your magnet in a double-lock (zip-lock) sandwich bag and be certain the
double-locking mechanism is tightly secure!  ;)  The stronger magnet
you can find the better, and don’t opt for the ‘cheapy’ zip-lock bags. 
Go name-brand here!

Once the storm is over, start your collecting your samples.  Take some
heavy-duty aluminum foil, and make a makeshift bowl about the size of a
cereal bowl.  Slowly sweep your magnet inside the collection pan which
is full of rain-water.  Spend about two minutes moving the magnet over
the entire surface of the collection pan.  Don’t get too discouraged. 
Your micrometeorites are very very small, and it’s doubtful that you
will see them with the naked eye!  Now the tricky part.  Hold your
magnet collector over the aluminum foil bowl, and carefully remove the
magnet from the zip-lock bag.  Take some distilled water and sprinkle a
small amount over both sides of the zip-lock back.  This will remove
any micrometeorites that are still clinging to the outside of the bag. 
Don’t be too generous with your water, as you are going to need to boil
the water off.

With adult supervision, place your aluminum foil bowl over the stove
top.  Keep it on the stove until all the water has boiled off.  Now
what’s left should be your new micrometeorite collection.

Magnetize a needle by moving it across your magnet several times in the
same direction.  Collect some of the samples from your bowl with the
needle and put them onto a microscope slide for viewing.  A magnifying
glass should be fine for the larger ones.  A microscope will work best
for the smaller ones, and give you a little more detail.

Keep your best samples and they can be saved for later viewing by gluing them to the slide with some clear glue.

You undoubtedly will find different ways to collect micrometeorites. 
Keep trying different things and use what works best for you. Enjoy!

*Micrometeorite image souce:http://leonid.arc.nasa.gov/leonidnews40.html

NASA copyright policy states that “NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted”. (NASA copyright policy page or JPL Image Use Policy)

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