Origins of the solar system

Part of Hall of Meteorites.

Origins of the Solar System Section at the Hall of Meteorites. C. Chesek/©AMNH. 

Meteorites contain the oldest material in the Solar System and reveal clues to the formation of our Sun and planets.

The blue-white fireball streaked across the dark skies above northern Mexico shortly after one o'clock in the morning on February 8, 1969. Residents of the Mexican town of Pueblito de Allende watched with astonishment as the glowing object approached and, with a tremendous blast, exploded into thousands of pieces that rained down across the region.

Although no one suspected it at the time, the Allende fall would revolutionize the science of meteorites. Suddenly, scientists had two tons of a previously rare type of meteorite available for study. Allende and meteorites like it contain the oldest known material formed in the solar system-and provide clues to how our solar system evolved into the Sun, planets, asteroids and comets we know today.