Science Project:

Outer Space In My Yard

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Minimal, except for the cost of a magnet and optional microscope

Safety Issues


Material Availability


Approximate Time

Less than an hour, unless the wet method is used, then time to let the water evaporate


To gather meteorite dust from the yard to study materials from outer space.


  • Magnet, the stronger the better
  • Good magnifying glass, or microscope


Thousands of tons of meteorites strike the earth every year. Some fall to the surface as identifiable “stones.” Most burn up during entry and fall as meteorite dust. Because the majority of meteorites have an iron composition, a magnet can be used to gather the particles.


Many are readily available online and in literally hundreds of books.

The Willamette Meteorite


Research Questions

  • What is the difference between a meteor and a meteorite?
  • What causes friction?
  • What are the most common types of meteorites?


  • Meteor: a piece of rock or stone in space
  • Meteorite: a meteor that enters the earth’s atmosphere


Because most meteorites are made largely of iron, larger meteorites can be detected and gathered with a metal detector. Much of the meteorite dust is still magnetic and can be collected with a magnet.

Experimental Procedure

There are two possible procedures, wet and dry. The wet method takes longer because of the time needed for the water to evaporate, but brings a greater concentration of meteorite dust.

  1. Place a bucket under a down spout at the beginning of a rain.
  2. After the rain has collected, set aside and allow the sediment to settle.
  3. Carefully pour off the clear water, and keep as much sediment as possible.
  4. Allow water to evaporate.
  5. If necessary, crush the sediment into a fine powder.
  6. Push a magnet through the dust to separate the iron-bearing particles.
  7. View with a strong magnifying glass or microscope.
  1. Tie twine to a strong magnet (the stronger the better).
  2. Drag the magnet across the yard, or along a curb gutter to collect iron-bearing particles.
  3. View with a strong magnifying glass or microscope. Note: Much iron in other forms will be found. The more urban the environment, the higher this will be. Vehicles, construction and manufacturing fill the air with this. It can be fairly easily determined what is from space and what is manmade because the manmade particles will tend to look more like slivers.


Author: Gene B. Williams
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