Meet the Photographer Hunting for Extraterrestrial Dust on Paris Rooftops

Jon Larsen has spent the eight years years hunting and photographing extraterrestrial dust in cities around the world—something NASA thought was impossible.

By Daniel Oberhaus | MOTHERBOARD

Every day, the Earth is showered with about 100 tons of cosmic dust, sub-millimeter mineral particles that have been floating around since before our solar system formed 4.6 billion years ago. They enter Earth’s atmosphere at speeds of at least 7 miles per second, and despite their small size, they account for most of the extraterrestrial material on Earth by weight.

Since the astronomer Fred Whipple coined the term ‚micrometeorite‚ in 1950, hundreds of samples of cosmic dust have been collected all over the world. All of these samples are collected at pristine sites far away from human activity, such as by drilling into the polar icecaps or using a magnetic sled to dredge the ocean floor. But last year Matthew Genge, a planetary scientist at Imperial College London, joined forces with Jon Larsen, a professional Norwegian musician moonlighting as an amateur scientist, who has been hunting and photographing micrometeorites for nearly a decade and recently found the first micrometeorite in an urban environment.

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