Every day, meteorites fall to the Earth. However, most of these are very small and can easily be mistaken for just ordinary dust and small pebbles. Try collecting your own micrometeorites (very small meteorites) in this experiment.
What You Need:
- Large piece of white paper
- Flat ground with no trees or buildings overhead
- Magnifying glass or microscope
What You Do:
- Pick a day that is supposed to have very little chance of precipitation.
- Place the paper on the ground where it won’t be disturbed and there is clear, open sky above it.
- Leave the paper there for several hours, about 4-8. The longer you leave the paper outside, the better chance there is of collecting meteorites. However, don’t leave it out too long, otherwise the wind may blow it away. (You may want to use something heavy to hold the paper down. Place the weight in the center so that the debris slides towards the center.) Also, bring the paper in if it starts to rain.
- When it is time to bring the paper in, lift the edges up so that the material on the paper falls toward the center. If needed, lift the opposite edges up and tap the paper so that all the material is collected in the center of the paper in one big pile.
- Place the magnet on the underside of the paper beneath the pile of material. You may want to move the magnet around under the pile to help the magnet capture as many metallic particles as possible.
- With the magnet still touching the paper, gently tip the paper to remove dust and debris that is not not attracted to the magnet from the pile.
- Use a magnifying glass or microscope to examine the remaining particles on the paper. If you find round, dark particles with pitted surfaces, you may have just found micrometeorites!
Meteorites are actually very common, but finding them can be hard to do. You may experience this while trying to collect your own micrometeorites. Larger meteorites also fall to the Earth every day, but most of these fall into the oceans which cover 70% of the Earth’s surface. Those that do fall on dry land are often covered up by vegetation or hidden among other rocks of similar size. The best places for scientists to find meteorites are in barren landscapes such as deserts and Antarctica. Also, whereas micrometeorites (like the ones found in this experiment) tend to be round, larger meteorites tend to be irregularly shaped. If you think you might have found a larger meteorite, use this list of meteorite properties to help identify whether or not you found one.