What do meteorites tell us? main content.

What do meteorites tell us?

Part of Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites.

A.2.2. What meteorites tell us hero

Exhibition Text

The most interesting aspect of a meteorite might seem to be its dramatic fall to Earth, often in a blazing fireball. But scientists spend their careers studying meteorites because they contain a record of our solar system's history going back some 4.6 billion years. By studying meteorites, we can learn details about how our solar system evolved into the Sun and planets of today—and how meteorite impacts could affect our future.

Origins of the solar system


Certain "primitive" meteorites contain the first solid material to form in our solar system. Researchers have used the age of this material—4.568 billion years—to determine the age of our solar system. Many primitive meteorites have remained essentially unchanged since they formed.

Such rocks offer a snapshot of the conditions in the early solar system. Primitive meteorites also provide clues to the proportions of the elements present in the solar system as a whole.

Building planets