The portholes in the Museum's Earth Hall are home to an array of specimens including a Moon rock sample (left) from the 1972 Apollo 16 mission.

Space highlights: Mars, Moon and meteorites

Blast off on an adventure around the galleries that's out of this world.  

Apollo Moon rocks

Location: Earth Hall and Treasures gallery

A close-up of the Apollo 16 Moon rock sample on display in Earth Hall


In a porthole to your right as you enter Earth Hall from Exhibition Road, you'll see a Moon rock sample from the 1972 Apollo 16 mission, loaned by the US government. By comparing lunar samples with samples of asteroids and comets, scientists have begun to understand the origin of water in the Earth-Moon system.

In 1973, fragments from the Apollo 17 mission were donated by President Richard Nixon as goodwill gestures to 135 countries, including the UK. One of these sits in the Treasures gallery

Campo del Cielo meteorite

Location: Minerals gallery


This 635-kilogramme iron meteorite was once part of a larger meteorite that fell in Campo del Cielo (named by the Spanish and translates as 'Field of Heaven') in Argentina around 4,000-5,000 years ago. 

The craters where the meteorites were found were already well known to indigenous inhabitants, but were reported in 1576 after a governor in northern Argentina commissioned a search. 

Wold Cottage meteorite

Location: Treasures gallery 


This meteorite was the first in the UK to be seen crashing to Earth. In December 1795, ploughman John Shipley looked up from his work on the Wold Cottage estate in Yorkshire to see this stone fall a few metres from where he stood. 

Most people thought the stones were blasted into the air by volcanoes. But with no active volcanoes in Yorkshire, how could that be? This event sparked the first serious investigation into the origins of meteorites. 

Find out more about the remarkable stories in the Treasures gallery.  

Nakhla meteorite

Location: The Vault  


It's an age-old question: is there life on Mars? The Nakhla meteorite fell as a shower of stones in 1911 near the Egyptian village of El Nakhla El Bahariya. It contains traces of a mineral known as fire opal, a special kind of opal that can trap microbes on Earth.

This discovery is the first direct proof that opals can form on the red planet. And if Martian microbes existed, they may be preserved in opal deposits on Mars.

Find out more about the Nakhla meteorite.

Diamonds from star dust

Location: The Vault 

Think about the oldest thing you've seen at the Museum. Was it the 122-129-million-year-old Mantellisaurus in Hintze Hall? Or perhaps it was the 190-million-year-old Attenborosaurus in the Fossil Marine Reptiles gallery?

At the bottom of a tiny vial is a smudge made up of millions of microscopic diamonds. They formed in the dust around dying stars billions of years ago, before our solar system existed, and are the oldest things you'll ever - yes, ever - see.

Tissint Martian meteorite

Location: The Vault 

 

Described by one of our meteorite curators as 'the most important meteorite to have fallen in 100 years', the Tissint Martian meteorite was witnessed falling to Earth in Morocco in 2011. 

It's also extraordinarily rare - less than 0.3% of meteorites in collections are from the red planet. Fragments of the meteorite are thought to have been knocked off the surface of Mars 700,000 years ago.

Imilac meteorite 

Location: Hintze Hall 

 

This extraterrestrial piece of sparkling rock is part of an ancient pallasite meteorite. It's one of the world's largest specimens of its kind and is over 4.5 billion years old. 

This type of meteorite is made from iron, nickel metal and a mineral called olivine. The green-yellow iron - magnesium silicate - sparkles like gems when light is shone through.

Discover more about the gem that's as old as the solar system.

What killed the dinosaurs?

Location: Dinosaurs gallery 

As you weave your way through the Dinosaurs gallery, see if you can spot the meteorite.

The impact of a comet or asteroid 66 million years ago is thought to have contributed to the extinction of around three quarters of all species living on Earth at the time, including many dinosaurs. 

Find out what brought about the end of the dinosaurs and many other animals too.

Martian meteorite

Location: From the Beginning 


At the entrance to this gallery you'll find a small slice of the Sayh al Uhamir 008 meteorite that was blasted off Mars by the impact of an asteroid or comet about 800,000 years ago. Continue through the space to go on a journey through the solar system and relive the history of Earth.

Evidence of past impacts

Location: Minerals gallery

Tektites from the Museum's collections


There is far less evidence of cratering on Earth because its surface has been modified by geological processes, vegetation, human activity and climate changes.

Sometimes the only remaining evidence of a past impact is the presence of impact glass and tektites, which are objects of natural glass formed during impact events, when large quantities of rock and dust are ejected in Earth's atmosphere. 

Head to the back of the Minerals gallery to see a display of tektites from central Europe and the Ivory Coast. Alongside are three meteorites: Tenham (Queensland, Australia, 1879), Henbury (Northern Territory, Australia, 1931) and Stannern (Czech Republic, 1808).

Museum of the Moon

Location: Jerwood Gallery 


Gaze up at the Moon in the Jerwood Gallery. The six-metre model is suspended from the ceiling so you can wander underneath or take a moment to sit and enjoy the quiet space. 

Wondering which side is the far side? Move around so you're facing the Dinosaurs gallery.

Free, no ticket required. Until 5 January

Mimicking the Moon 

Location: Outside Museum of the Moon

Anorthosite rock

 

By collecting rocks on Earth that are similar to Moon rocks (like the ones in the case outside Museum of the Moon), our curators help space agency engineers and scientists test new technology on Earth before it is used in space.

In the case you'll find basalt from Northern Ireland, which is like the rocks that make up the dark patches on the Moon. 

The anorthosite rock from Sweden is a coarse stone that makes up the brighter areas on the Moon, also known as the lunar highlands.

Free, until 5 January 

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