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Cosmic dust found in English cathedrals

by Premier Journalist
Cosmic dust.png - Banner image
Gary University of Kent // English Cathedrals

A team of space experts have picked 13 cathedrals as good spots to find tiny space rocks.

They've already collected samples from Canterbury and Rochester cathedrals and are hoping to check out Salisbury and Winchester, too.

According to experts, cathedrals have big, hard-to-reach roofs, perfect for finding cosmic dust. By studying these particles under a microscope, scientists hope to learn more about how oceans and life formed on Earth.
Some samples are up to seven billion years old, coming from other solar systems and landing on Earth billions of years ago.

Dr Penny Wozniakiewicz, a planetary scientist from the University of Kent at the centre of the project, said: "We have a list of about 13 cathedrals we want to target.

"Initially, we did just collect the cosmic dust with a dustpan and brush, but we now have our own vacuum cleaner. Generally, we collect from where it's washed from sloping roofs to flat ones and into gutters.
"There are a number of reasons why we are targeting cathedrals, apart from their iconic status, which might help us gain funding, there are also scientific reasons. They are large areas, and they have been collecting for a long time.

"Cosmic dust is mixed in with far greater quantities of terrestrial dust, created, for example, by welding or drilling or ash from combustion, but the proportion that is from space, and the number of different cosmic varieties, is likely to be greater on a cathedral than a house.

"Also, we often know the ages of church roofs, and they keep records of work done, so that can help us date material and pick out more quickly what is bona fide cosmic dust. "Not many people get on church roofs to disturb the dust too. If you were collecting somewhere like a playground or road, identifying cosmic dust would be much harder," she added.

Gathering cosmic dust marks just the start of the research journey, arguably the more straightforward phase. The following steps involve sterilising the collected dust for safety and meticulously examining each particle under a sterile microscope.



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