THE MICROMETEORITES PROJECT
Micrometeorites, being microscopic objects traversing the interplanetary space within the Solar System, are primarily generated through collisions among small solid bodies, such as asteroids, and through the evaporation of icy bodies, such as comets, in the dust-production regions, which include the Kuiper belt, the asteroid belt, and beyond. These extraordinary particles comprise the Zodiac cloud, which is visible in clear moonless nights as the Zodiacal light.
In terms of scientific significance, micrometeorites are crucial in understanding the beginning of the Solar System and the geological processes that occurred in its early stages, providing unique opportunities for investigation into the evolution of the protoplanetary disk. Notably, approximately 40,000 tons of micrometeorites enter the Earth's atmosphere every year, dominating the mass flux of extra-terrestrial materials accreting on the planet. The majority of micrometeorites recovered today are typically obtained from deep-sea sediments constituting fossilized micrometeorites that were deposited earlier in Earth's history. Additionally, some micrometeorites are present in samples taken from snow, ice, and loose sediments found in the polar regions. Such micrometeorites present in these regions are a recent addition to Earth's extra-terrestrial inventory.
Recently, naturally-formed quasicrystals were discovered in fragments of the primitive Khatyrka meteorite, denoting them as a new stable form of matter that could form and survive in outer space for billions of years. Other previously discovered quasicrystal candidates are from a wide range of sources, including the Suizhou L6 chondrite, the carbonaceous diamond-bearing meteorite Hypatia, cometary dust particles, and a cosmic spherule found in the Nubian desert. These rare minerals signify only a fraction of the potentially infinite numbers of novel crystals of exceptional structural complexity yet to be discovered in the Milky Way and other corners of the Universe.
The University of Uppsala's micrometeorite research initiative seeks to devise an innovative strategy for gathering micrometeorites from the field, construct a fresh assemblage of modern and fossilized micrometeorites to facilitate research, and obtain crucial knowledge regarding the asteroidal genesis and history of celestial collision of the micrometeorites' parent bodies, while pinpointing vital geological events that transpired in the protosolar disk.