Meet the star hunter
Out in space, between the stars, planets, comets and asteroids, there is cosmic dust. Every day, tonnes of it fall down upon us as a gentle cosmic rain of micrometeorites. Little is known about these tiny mineral fragments from the time before the planets were formed, but from them scientists are able to obtain new knowledge about the universe and the formation of our Solar System. They are the building blocks of the universe, and of life itself. We are stardust. Over the past hundred years, thousands have searched in vain for these exotic particles. Until Jon Larsen found the missing pieces of the puzzle – and solved the mystery.
It all began one sunny day eleven years ago. Larsen was preparing breakfast outdoors when he noticed a shiny speck of dust on the white tabletop. Where had it come from? The amateur mineralogist soon realised that this was no plant seed – it was a tiny, shimmering rock, which just moments earlier had not been there.
Larsen’s curiosity was aroused. He began to learn about stardust, tiny particles hurtling through space at a speed of 56,000 kilometres per hour until they are slowed by Earth’s atmosphere. For seven years, he searched in roadside ditches and on rooftops using magnets, collecting the dust and dirt in bags before filtering it and studying it under his microscope. Over and over again – a thousand times, in as many as fifty different countries. It was a monstrous mission: a hunt for the oldest matter known to exist. Scientists said it was impossible – that the wall of terrestrial contaminants was simply insurmountable. But Larsen was undeterred in his search. And then one day, the unthinkable happened.
Larsen made a discovery in the road dust that contradicted the entire scientific community – NASA included. One that would question where the water on Earth came from, and ultimately how life began. This discovery was rated by American Discover Magazine as being among the hundred most important made that year: a new method of accessing and identifying micrometeorites, enabling science to obtain brand-new knowledge about our Solar System.
In Star Hunter, Jon Larsen takes the reader along on his mission – an exciting chapter in the history of science. We join him on his search for stardust along the streets and on rooftops, accompanying him through ups and downs and encounters with angry scientists until the unthinkable happens. Star Hunter is a fantastic work of popular science, anecdotal, personal, and entertainingly narrated by Larsen. An amateur astrogeologist who surprised astronomers all over the world, and a self-taught layman who succeeded in achieving something even the experts at NASA had failed to do.
Today, Jon Larsen studies micrometeorites as a scientific researcher at the University of Oslo (UiO), in collaboration with foremost experts in the field, including those at NASA. He is a popular lecturer, and a dynamo within the online international micrometeorite community. He posts daily updates to his Project Stardust on Facebook, sharing new information about and photographs of micrometeorites.
Star Hunter is a work of non-fiction in English, 320 pages (16 pages of colour illustrations), 15 x 21 cm, soft cover.