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Cosmic Dust Grains Found on City Rooftops for the First Time

getty-paris

Sifting through muck trapped in roof gutters in Paris, Oslo and Berlin yielded 500 tiny particles from the birth of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

Cosmic dust raining down from space has been discovered on rooftops in three major cities.

“We’ve known since the 1940s that cosmic dust falls continuously through our atmosphere, but until now we’ve thought that it could not be detected among the millions of terrestrial dust particles, except in the most dust-free environments such as the Antarctic or deep oceans.”

The tiny particles date back to the birth of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

Scientists usually collect cosmic dust in the frozen wastes of Antarctica. Now, for the first time, the space debris has been found hidden in city dirt.

“The obvious advantage to this new approach is that it is much easier to source cosmic dust particles if they are in our backyards.”

—  Matthew Genge, Imperial College London

Researchers sifted through 300 kilograms of muck trapped in roof gutters in Paris, Oslo and Berlin. Using magnets to pull out the particles, which contain magnetic minerals, they identified a total of 500 cosmic dust grains.

“We’ve known since the 1940s that cosmic dust falls continuously through our atmosphere, but until now we’ve thought that it could not be detected among the millions of terrestrial dust particles, except in the most dust-free environments such as the Antarctic or deep oceans,” says Matthew Genge at Imperial College London. “The obvious advantage to this new approach is that it is much easier to source cosmic dust particles if they are in our backyards.”

The idea of looking for cosmic dust in the city was the brain child of amateur scientist Jon Larsen, from Norway, who contacted Imperial.

“When Jon first came to me I was dubious,” Genge says….(read more)

Source: New Scientist

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