New Hope Man Hunts for Micrometeorites
When most people make their way to the Animal Humane Society (AHS) in Golden Valley, it’s with the intent that they’ll find a new pet to bring home.
But Scott Peterson isn’t like most people, he’s here for a reason some might consider as weird.
“It’s not weird,” said Peterson, as he walked through the halls of the Animal Humane Society.
Correction, he’s at the AHS for a reason that’s unique.
You see, Peterson is here to get onto the building’s rooftop and sift through piles of dirt with a powerful magnet.
But the stuff he’s collecting with that magnet isn’t just regular dirt.
Specifically, he’s looking for micrometeorites. In other words, magnetic specks of dust from outer space.
“They’re usually around .2 to .4 millimeters, so they’re really small,” said Peterson. “Like, if you take a dot at the end of a pencil and put that on a piece of paper, that’s roughly the size that they are.”
This exercise of going on rooftops has become somewhat of an obsession for the stay-at-home dad who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So far, he’s found nearly a thousand of the microscopic space pebbles, making him one of the world’s preeminent micrometeorite collectors.
“I mean, these little pieces are billions of years old. Sometimes they’re older than the earth themselves,” Peterson said.
Bell Museum Dedicates Exhibit to Micrometeorites
Yet something so tiny has paid off in a big way. Peterson now has a full-blown exhibit dedicated to his work at the University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum.
The exhibit is called, “City Stardust. Micrometeorites in our own Backyards.”
Visitors can learn about the collection and examination process; they can see micrometeorites with their own eyes; and they can check out large-scale images from Peterson’s collection.
“It’s really a passion point for the Bell Museum to put this really amazing work on display,” said Andria Waclawski, the Bell Museum’s communications manager. “Because we want more people to be engaged and understand that science is for everyone, and if we all take a little bit of time and look a little bit closer, we can make some interesting discoveries together.”
It remains to be seen what we can learn from micrometeorites.
“There’s a lot of interesting science. We don’t know too much about them, so far,” Peterson said. “There hasn’t been a lot of research.”
The unanswered questions are one of the reasons why Peterson goes through the painstaking task of scouring local rooftops, assuming the businesses grant him access.
“If I have articles to show them, they can see that I’m not just some guy that wants to go on the roof and, I don’t know, do whatever,” Peterson said.
The work done by this “guy on the roof” could one day help answer some important questions about our universe, and in the process, help to inspire other people to discover their inner-scientist.
“I don’t know where it’ll take me, but hopefully somewhere interesting,” Peterson said of his research.
Peterson says he hopes to one-day write a book about micrometeorites. Meanwhile, his exhibit at the Bell Museum runs through Sept. 8. It’s part of a yearlong celebration of space science to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.