Meteorites

  • Exhibition Text

    • What if you could catch a falling star?

      For thousands of years, people have been fascinated by streaks of light flashing across the night sky. These "shooting stars" are actually tiny grains of dust from space that burn up in Earth's atmosphere before reaching the ground. But hundreds of times a year, a rock called a meteorite survives the fiery trip from space and lands on Earth. A small fraction of these "fallen stars"—really fallen rocks—are recovered each year from around the globe.

      The vast majority of meteorites are pieces of asteroids, the small rocky bodies that orbit the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. And while meteorites are not from stars, they contain vital clues that help scientists understand how stars like our Sun formed and how planets, including Earth, took shape more than four billion years ago.

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  • For Educators

    • Topic: Astronomy

      Subtopic: Stars

      Keywords: Meteorites, Astrophysics, Solar system, Astrogeology, Meteors, Asteroids

      Audience: General

In This Section

Stone and iron from space

Stone and iron from space

Meteorites are all rocks from space, but they are not all alike. The meteorites known as irons, for example, are more than 98 percent metal.

Historic meteorites

Historic meteorites

Meteorites and the dramatic fireballs that announce their arrival have long instilled both fear and wonder in the human imagination.

Fragments of Cape York

Fragments of Cape York

A total of seven fragments of the huge Cape York meteorite have been identified; three are on display here. Ahnighito, the large mass in the center of the room, is the biggest piece of Cape York ever discovered.

Ahnighito

Ahnighito

This huge piece of iron, known as Ahnighito, is actually just one portion of a much larger meteorite that fell to Earth from space.