Roof Maintenance Solutions finds fallen stars atop Ottawa buildings

Micrometeorite
A single micrometeorite can be as small as a single hair strand (50μm) or up to 2 mm in diameter. (photo provided)

Ernie Cecchetto was a teenager when he first learned how to catch fragments of a shooting star.

Now, as an adult and president of Ottawa-based Roof Maintenance Solutions, he collects them on a regular basis.

Micrometeorites are small, metallic extraterrestrial particles that hurtle through the earth’s atmosphere at high speeds before being scattered across the planet.

“Intrigued” by the thought of finding these dust-sized objects that fall to the Earth, Mr. Cecchetto soon realized after he entered the commercial property industry that the large flat roofs he maintains on a daily basis are an ideal catching point.

It turned out that the techniques Roof Maintenance Solutions uses to preserve and extend the lifespan of roofs are also ideal for finding micrometeorites.

After clearing a roof of organic matter such as algae, the company’s employees use a large magnetic bar to collect metallic debris such as fasteners and nails.

Many of these objects were accidently dropped by contractors who previously worked on the roof. On their own, they may not cause much harm. But when the metal edge of a box-cutting blade is under several inches of ice, the pressure can cause the blade to puncture the roof’s membrane and lead to leaks.

Mr. Cecchetto says his team has collected some 500 pieces and has recently started to put them to good use.

After magnetically sweeping the roof, Mr. Cecchetto and his staff sift through the debris and look for the spherical micrometeorites. While many are no larger than small specks, Roof Maintenance Solutions staff have found micrometeorites as large as a pea.

Mr. Cecchetto says his team has collected some 500 pieces and has recently started to put them to good use.

Roof Maintenance Solutions is partnering with Operation Come Home, an employment, education and support centre for homeless and at-risk youth in Ottawa.

While the campaign is still being developed, the vision is to fill small glass vials with micrometeorites before attaching them to bracelets or necklaces sold in the local charity’s store.

For the wearer, the jewelry represents a falling star that’s been caught and allows them to make a wish of a prosperous future for the Operation Come Home youth who crafted it.

And for the employees of Roof Maintenance Solutions, it’s a way to stimulate their creativity and think about unconventional ways of supporting their community – something Mr. Cecchetto says he can already see is working.

“Trust me, the staff now get pretty excited when they find these micrometeorites.”