Improved collection of rooftop micrometeorites through optimized extraction methods: The Budel collectionOPEN ACCESS 

Guido Jonker, Roel van Elsas, Jeroen H. J. L. van der Lubbe, Wim van Westrenen

Version of Record online: 23 March 2023


“The scientific value of micrometeorites collected from deep-sea sediments or glacial deposits can be limited by poorly constrained accumulation times or severe alteration, coupled with a complex infrastructure of sampling expeditions. Collecting micrometeorites from rooftops has recently become a feasible alternative, but extraction methods have not been optimized or standardized to date. Here, we show that existing methods for the recovery of melted cosmic spherules (CSs) can be strongly improved by using a sequence of mineral separation techniques, including shape separation with an asymmetric vibrator and heavy liquid density separation with overflow centrifuges. We retrieved 1006 micrometeorites from the gutter of a barn in Budel, the Netherlands. Particle diameters are 80–515 μm, with the major mode at 130 μm and a slope exponent of −4.88. Differences in size distributions among various types of CSs indicate a multi-source influx, with CS textures controlled by their parent body’s mineralogy and orbital parameters. Repeated sampling of the rooftop after accumulation times of 959 and 333 days allows for a time-integrated global mass flux estimate of 472 t year−1. This estimate is notably higher than previous rooftop-based estimates but is still severely affected by micrometeorite loss from the gutter through drainage. The mass flux peaks at an equivalent particle diameter of ~200 μm. The Budel collection is the first rooftop collection to contain abundant vitreous micrometeorites and include the coarse-grained S-type CS class. Unmelted and I-type micrometeorites remain difficult to extract from rooftop samples. Vitreous micrometeorites display various stages of weathering, showing that severe alteration of glass can progress at a faster rate in populated regions than previously assumed. This study demonstrates that methodological adjustments can drastically increase the scientific potential of rooftop micrometeorite collections.”