Cosmochemistry is at the cutting edge of science. It is the study of the chemical reactions that make up the universe and all the natural objects in it, including meteorites. By understanding the chemical structure of a meteorite, cosmochemistry can tell us a great deal more than through observations alone.

How do we know what has happened to a meteorite?

Meteorites contain material that is slightly radioactive. By knowing how long the radioactive material takes to decay, the age of that material and the meteorite can be worked out. Often meteorites contain several different materials due to chemical reactions or collisions, where material mixes. Different ages for these different materials can be established, allowing the cosmochemists to work out when significant events, such as colliding with another meteorite or landing on Earth, happened.

Explaining the solar system

By studying meteorites, cosmochemists can explain more than just what happened to a meteorite. Working out the age and when different materials have fallen to Earth as meteorites can tell us a lot about the abundance of different elements at different times. This can help to explain how the different components that make the solar system were distributed and mixed up during its formation.

Cartoon image of a stegasaurus disappearing through closing door

The first collected specimen of Theobroma cacao, the plant from which chocolate is made, is kept in the Museum.