While many people might consider space to be “out there” and separate from the cozy little reality we experience on the surface of our planet, the fact is that we’re all riding a giant, spinning ball of matter while it whirls around the Sun at a blinding speed. The only thing separating us from the vacuum of space is the layer of gasses we call an atmosphere.
While we’re mostly insulated from cosmic goings-on and happenings, sometimes we’re awoken from our illusion of separateness from the stars. Aside from the fairly common occurrence of meteorites exploding in our atmosphere or crashing to Earth, the evidence of exploding and dying stars can be found all throughout our planet from the red iron-based paints covering most barns, to the traces of supernovae found deep under ocean waters.
Now, new research published in the journal Geology has shown that fine particles of space dust can be found coating nearly every part of our planet, including rooftops in major cities. The research was conducted by Dr. Matthew Genge from Imperial College London and citizen scientist Jon Larsen of Norway. The pair combed through 300 kilograms (~660 pounds) of silicate space debris and cosmic spherules gathered from gutters in urban centers of Paris, Oslo, and Berlin. Using magnets to separate the debris, the scientists found micrometeorites in every sample.
According to Genge, this discovery challenges popular theories about cosmic dust held throughout the astronomical community:
Many people had reported finding cosmic dust in urban areas before, but when they were analysed scientists found that these particles were all industrial in origin. […] 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.
This research could help planetary scientists and astronomers piece together some of the mysteries surrounding the geological history of our solar system. By analyzing cosmic dust collected from different planets, scientists might be able to understand how each of the planets have affected one another throughout their formation.