Pollution Particles

September 28, 2010

Photographer: Tom Fieselmann
Summary Author: Tom Fieselmann

The photo above shows some exotic looking micro-particles found near my home in Madrid, Spain. In order to satisfy my curiosity about the frequency of micrometeorites, I decided to drag a magnet over an open area close by my home in order to see what I could collect. After filtering several samples, I eventually obtained this composite image (x 200) of numerous microspheres. The particles range widely in size from the approximately 75 micron thick, human hair, shown across the bottom of the image, to the large (about 400 microns thick) persimmon-colored chunk at right center. I showed both the samples and photographs to technicians at the local observatory who put me in contact with an astrophysicist at the Complutense University of Madrid. It turns out that likely 99.99% of these particles are residue from human-source pollution; foundries, coal-burning power plants, high-temperature ovens and possibly particles from welding processes. While disappointed at not finding any micrometeorites, seeing close up some of the contaminants left over from everyday pollution was an eye-opening experience. Photo taken in August 2009.

Photo details: Bodelin Proscope HR digital microscope; Bodelin visualization software; Magnification 200x; Hexagonal LED light source source; IrfanView Panorama.