Project Stardust: A Photographer Scours Rooftops Across the Globe for Minuscule Cosmic Particles
According to Olso-based photographer and researcher Jon Larsen, the most exotic particles from across the universe are likely hiding in a rain gutter or scattered among debris on rooftops. Larsen, who works in the geosciences department at the University of Oslo, has been at the forefront of micrometeorite discovery since 2009 when “a shiny black dot suddenly appeared on my white veranda table while I was having strawberries for breakfast.”
The event sparked a now decades-long exploration into the field of “cosmic dust particles, the oldest solid matter there is, ‘ash’ from dead stars, etc,” he tells Colossal. “Nothing has traveled farther…The search/hunt for stardust continues in all directions, but I am particularly interested in the unmelted ones, which contain water and complex organic molecules, (the) building blocks of life.”
These findings are what Larsen calls urban micrometeorites or minuscule bits of extraterrestrial matter found in heavily populated areas. Even though 60 tons of the dust fall to Earth every day, scientists previously considered the tiny pieces only discoverable in remote regions devoid of human life “due to an unsurmountable wall of terrestrial contaminants,” the researcher says. “Furthermore, the micrometeorites were thought to have a very short lifespan here on Earth due to the harsh weathering.”
That theory changed after Larsen scoured countless areas across the globe, producing a monumental archive of tens of thousands of particles. These range from the common barred olivine to the rare glass with chromites and volcanic residue. Most are considerably smaller than .05 centimeters.
Larsen’s pioneering research has culminated in a few books, including an identification guide and a forthcoming tome collecting his paintings, photos, and drawings on the subject. It also forms the basis for Project Stardust, a global community of micrometeorite hunters where he shares images of the gleaming, metallic findings in the form of striking macro shots that reveal crystalline details, jagged edges, and the particles’ lustrous surfaces. Simultaneously focused on the discovery and beauty of his findings, Larsen’s practice falls at the intersection of science, photography, and art. He explains:
Stardust looks like nothing else down on Earth, and they are beautiful jewelry from space. That it fell on me to discover these extraterrestrial beauties was rather bizarre because I do not come from academia but the art world… It was these qualifications which enabled me to find the way through the labyrinth and discover what everybody else said was impossible.
The publication of Larsen’s next book will coincide with exhibitions in Oslo and Berlin. You can find more of his work in the recent Werner Herzog documentary about meteors and comets, Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds, and explore the vast archive of his findings on his site. (via Kottke)
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A Serendipitous Shot Frames a Meteor Soaring Over Russia’s Klyuchevskaya Sopka as It Erupts
In a single, fortuitous photograph, Daniel Kordan proves his astute eye as he documents two of nature’s rarely seen phenomena: the brilliant trail of a meteor streaking through the sky and Klyuchevskaya Sopka as it spews a mass of glowing lava. Striking and similarly explosive, the pair even reflect in the small body of water in the foreground.
Raised near Moscow, the now-itinerant photographer took the unexpected shot while leading a 2016 workshop at the Kamchatka Peninsula, which sits at the northeast corner of Russia facing the Pacific Ocean. The group was in the area hoping to capture the dramatic eruptions from Klyuchevskaya Sopka, which is the tallest active volcano in Eurasia—records show it’s been live since 1697—and the highest in the region scaling 15,580 feet. “We stayed with my group at camp close to a small pond,” Kordan says. “We caught reflections of volcanoes, and accidentally, I also caught a shooting star during a long exposure (of) 25 seconds.”
Kordan is known for his stunning landscape and outdoor photography, including shots of the jagged icicles on Lake Baikal, Namibia’s rippled sand dunes, and Lofoten, a fairytale-like town in Norway, to name a few. Follow his travels on Instagram, and pick up a print in his shop. (via PetaPixel)
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A Remarkably Colorful Geminid Meteor Streaks Across the Sky in a Singular Astrophotograph by Dean Rowe
Colorado-based photographer Dean Rowe recently captured the spectacular sight of a colorful Rainbow Geminid Meteor streaking across the sky during December’s Geminid meteor shower. The image was shared on NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day earlier this month, and includes a helpful explanation from a professional astronomer:
The radiant grit cast off by asteroid 3200 Phaethon blazed a path across Earth’s atmosphere longer than 60 times the angular diameter of the Moon. Colors in meteors usually originate from ionized elements released as the meteor disintegrates, with blue-green typically originating from magnesium, calcium radiating violet, and nickel glowing green. Red, however, typically originates from energized nitrogen and oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Rowe, the photographer who documented this ephemeral moment, shares with Colossal that he has been interested in photography and astronomy since his early teens. He built his own telescope at the age of 13 which included grinding and polishing the mirror lens by hand. After a career in software engineering, Rowe has been investing in photography in retirement, with a focus on the wide world of nature. In addition to night and astrophotography, Rowe also frequently photographs hummingbirds in flight. You can see more of his work on his website, where prints are available for purchase, and his Facebook page.
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The Night Skies Over Finland & Iceland Saturated with Stars Photographed by Mikko Lagerstedt
We’ve long been drawn to self-taught photographer Mikko Lagerstedt’s (previously) dreamy composite photos of Finland and Iceland at night. In his long-exposure images, meteors are seen streaking through the sky and frigid waterfalls appear like mist. Lagerstedt composes and edits all of his images in Lightroom and Photoshop and shares numerous tutorials on his techniques through his website. He most recently returned from a photoshoot at a deserted Yyteri Beach in Finland, more of which he shared on Instagram.
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