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Galaxy dust all over us

By: Arien Fuentes

If you’ve ever caught yourself looking up at the sky hoping to see a shooting star, you are one among many spectators from around the world.  Outer space is a vast immensity made up of many explainable and unexplained phenomenons. It’s taken the human race somewhere around 200,000 years to discover 4% of the universe. That small percentage includes only the things astronomers have been able to see or detect, such as: stars, planets and other galaxies. The other 96% is still up for grabs.

Microorganisms that are unseen by the naked eye are not just in outer space. Some particles are so small that even if you’ve been eating, breathing and living with it, you would not know it existed. One example of such occurrences are Micro-meteorites or space dust. If you’ve ever seen a shooting star, you’ll notice it has a white skinny tail at its end. This is the result of the meteor coming in contact with the mesosphere chips of the meteor which start breaking off due to speed and friction. After the pieces have finished going through all the layers of the atmosphere, they break up to a size similar to that of a speck of dust. The grains that survive earth’s atmosphere accumulate to almost 4,000 tons annually.

Although scientists knew about the existence of these particles, astronomers mainly wanted to learn about their chemical compositions and not the particles’ appearance.  Locating these specks is considered to be very hard even if they are all over the place. Jon Larsen a guitarist and independent scientific researcher dedicated eight years of his life to locating these Micro-meteorites to photograph, document and share them with the world. Larsen had his first encounter with space dust in 2009 when he was cleaning a table and suddenly a shimmer caught his eye. “It was blinking in the sunlight,” he recalled. When he touched the fleck , “It was angular in some way, kind of metallic but so small—a tiny dot.”

Soon after, his fascination with the dust began. After many months of search, he finally located what he was looking for in the rooftops of Norway. Most of the dust scientists have collected have come from hot and cold deserts. Larsen didn’t want to search in those places because he wanted the pictures to be from recent arriving dust. After he was able to find the first few specks, he soon discovered that they were all over the place. “Once I knew what I was looking for, I found them everywhere,” he states. Larsen has taken about 1,500 photomicrographs of the meteorite dust. His new book titled, In Search of Stardust: Amazing Micro-Meteorites and Their Terrestrial Impostors is composed of 150 pages of colorful photographs.  If you are interested in finding star-dust on your own, the book will include instructions on what to look for.  However thanks to Larsen’s efforts, we do not have to search the rooftops of buildings to see the space dust.

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