Collecting micrometeoritesFeatured science projectScience project video

popular science fair projects
Complexity level:
4
Project cost ($):
20
Time required:
1 day for preparation, 3 hours for this science fair project experiment
Material availability:
You will need a microscope for this experiment. Check with your school's science laboratory
Safety concerns:

None

Abstract

This science fair project was performed to find the best way of collecting and observing micrometeorites. The samples were collected from a roof, the leaf of an outdoor plant and rain water.

Hypothesis

The dust collected from all the locations will contain some micrometeorites.
 

Background

Meteor and micrometeorites

Meteors are small rocks that are found in space. Sometimes, these rocks enter our atmosphere and they appear to us as shooting stars in the night sky. This happens because as they enter our atmosphere, they accelerate due to gravity. Friction causes the meteoroid’s surface to become hot, thereby lighting it up.

Most of the meteors are small and burn up in our atmosphere before reaching the ground. However, some big enough to leave craters on the surface of our planet upon impact. Many of such craters can be seen on the surface of the moon. Most meteors are made up of rocks and metals.

Micrometeorites are very tiny rock particles that weigh less then a gram. They are normally metallic and originate from broken debris from a larger rock. Most of them date back to the origins of the solar system. Some micrometeorites are so small that they remain afloat in our atmosphere. They eventually combine with rain droplets and reach our planet surface together with the rain.
 

Scientific Terms

Meteors, atmosphere, friction, micrometeorites, solar system

Materials

The materials required for this science fair project:

-    1 bottle of distilled water
-    1 basin of water collected from a rooftop gutter
-    20 leaves plucked from an outdoor plant
-    2 plastic basins
-    1 plastic pan with a large surface area
-    3 beakers
-    3 plastic bags
-    1 strong magnet
-    1 basin of rainwater
-    1 hotplate
-    3 needles
-    1 microscope

Procedure

1.    For this science fair project, the independent variable is the location where the dust samples are collected. The dependent variable is the presence of the micrometeorites. This is determined by observing the micrometeorites under a microscope. The constants (control variables) are the strength of the magnet used, the size of the collection pan and the magnification of the microscope used.

2.    Collect a sample of water from a rooftop gutter on a rainy day using a plastic basin.
3.    Lightly rinse and wash the leaves of the outdoor plant using distilled water. Collect the water in a plastic basin.

4.    Place a plastic pan outdoors during the rain. The pan should not be obstructed by any object. Ensure that water dripping from nearby trees or roofs do not fall into the pan.

5.    Place a magnet inside a plastic bag and seal it tightly, ensuring that it is air -tight. It is then swept around for about 2 minutes inside the basin containing water collected from the roof gutter. Then, hold the plastic bag over a beaker while carefully removing the magnet. Rinse the outer surface of the plastic bag with distilled water and capture the water with a beaker.

6.    Place the beaker on the hotplate and allow the water to evaporate. Magnetize a needle by rubbing it over a magnet. Then, rub it at the base of the beaker to collect the micrometeorite samples. Place the needle on a slide and view it under a microscope. Any rounded metal particles are most likely micrometeorites. Count the number of micrometeorites found and record in the table given below.

7.    Repeat steps 5 and 6 with the 2 remaining basins of water.
 

Observation

The results show that micrometeorites were found in all 3 locations where the samples ware collected.

Source of sample Roof gutter Plant leaves Rainwater
Number of micrometeorites found 5 2 3

Conclusion

The hypothesis that the dust collected from all the locations will contain some micrometeorites has been proven to be true.

Micrometeorites pose a lot of danger in space exploration. The relative speed between a micrometeorite and an orbiting spacecraft can be very great, to the tune of several kilometers per second (not per hour). The spacecraft and the astronaut's spacesuit must be built to withstand any bombardment of micrometeorites. Continual high speed impact can compromise the safety and functionality of the spacecraft/space suit.

 

Also consider

The science fair project may be repeated by collecting samples throughout the different months of the year and comparing the types of micrometeorite found.

The experiment may also be done by collecting samples after or during a meteorite shower.

References

Micrometeoroid - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micrometeoroid

Micrometeorites - http://bizarrelabs.com/met.htm
 

Videos