Collecting and identifying meteorites

Despite large numbers of meteorites falling to Earth each year, very few people actually see them hitting the ground and most fall into the sea and are lost. However, around a thousand are found every year. About 45,000 meteorites have been identified from all over the world.

The best place to find meteorites is in dry places, such as hot deserts and the Antarctic, but some have been found in the UK. The oldest UK fall, discovered in 1795, and the youngest, which fell in 1991, are looked after by the Natural History Museum. So is the Barwell meteorite, which was the biggest to fall over Britain.

  • An image taken from a video of the Peekskill fireball that fell in 1994
    Falls and finds

    Every year between 30,000 and 80,000 meteorites larger than 20g in mass fall from space to Earth. These can be spectacular events.

  • Hot desert meteorites
    Hot desert meteorites

    Hot deserts, such as the Nullarbor region of Australia and the Sahara Desert in Africa, are excellent places to find meteorites because they are dry and old.

  • Antarctic meteorites
    Antarctic meteorites

    More meteorites have been recovered from Antarctica than from any other place on Earth.

  • A Marcasite nodule
    Identifying meteorites

    It can be difficult to tell meteorites apart from terrestrial rock and some man-made materials. Discover tell-tale signs left by a meteorite's long journey to Earth that reveal its true identity.

Cartoon image of a hatchet fish on a museum pass

Until 1938 whale carcasses were buried in the Museum grounds so that their flesh would decay leaving only the skeletons.