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A micrometeorite found at the rooftop of the Institute of Space Sciences

18/12/2023
  • The expert in urban micrometeorites Jon Larsen collaborated with ICE-CSIC & IEEC researcher Josep M. Trigo-Rodríguez in the framework of the Project Stardust to look for these tiny extraterrestrial survivors on the rooftops of ICE-CSIC and several other buildings at UAB campus.

SEM image of the very first genuine ICE-CSIC space rock. Credits: Jon Larsen.

SEM image of the very first genuine ICE-CSIC space rock. Credits: Jon Larsen.

The Institute of Space Sciences (ICE-CSIC), recognised as an international repository of NASA Antarctic meteorites and host of an unique collection of extraterrestrial rocks from around the world, expands its collection thanks to the discovery of a micrometeorite on its rooftop, as a result of a collaboration between the expert in urban micrometeorites Jon Larsen and the researcher Josep M. Trigo (ICE-CSIC, IEEC).

Earlier this year, during April, researcher Josep M. Trigo, Principal Investigator of the Meteorite, Minor Bodies and Planetary Sciences Group at ICE-CSIC, and Jon Larsen, who does scientific research on cosmic dust particles at the University of Oslo (UiO), looked for potential micrometeorites in the rooftops of the ICE-CSIC and other buildings located at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) campus. The results back at the laboratory show that they found one barred olivine (BO) type micrometeorite at the centre’s roof. 

The field work on the roofs took place before a colloquium by Jon Larsen on the Project Stardust, a scientific project to find urban micrometeorites. In 2015, Larsen discovered the first urban micrometeorite, NMM 1, a slightly translucent barred olivine spherule in the sludge of a Norwegian rain gutter. Since then, with a mixed background including mineralogy, jazz guitar, and surrealist painting, he continued his research and became an expert at identifying these tiny objects. He currently works in contact with all the foremost experts in this field worldwide, including the Imperial College of London and NASA.

In collaboration with researcher Josep M. Trigo –who coordinates the Spanish Meteor Network (SPMN)–, they both explored the windiest areas of the roofs of the campus where more dust builds up, together with some PhD students, to take samples. The dust was collected with a magnet and examined in a detailed microscopic analysis by Jon Larsen and researcher Matthew Genge, a recognised expert in micrometeorites, at Imperial College, London.

The result of this brief field work is the finding of an extraterrestrial rock at the rooftop of the institute. Josep M. Trigo emphasises its relevance: “We are really excited about this finding. Our research institute, widely known for our studies on chondrites, had a 250 micrometres stone on its roof! Microscopic exploration reveals that it is just a small chondrule coming from some pristine asteroid that survived atmospheric ablation. In the end, it produced a really nice barred olivine (BO) type micrometeorite. Due to the atmospheric flight and the thermal annealing a nickel-iron bead is just in front of this beauty, surrounded by a discrete but amazing sulphide rim. Sprinkled over the surface of this aerodynamic rock, we found small magnetite crystals formed during its atmospheric deceleration.” The new micrometeorite will become a part of the meteorite collection at ICE-CSIC.

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Jorge Rivero & Alba Calejero

Josep M. Trigo-Rodríguez
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Josep M. Trigo-Rodríguez