Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites American Museum of Natural History



    Topics of Cases by Section
    Introduction (central area)
  • Ahnighito
  • History of theCape York meteorite
  • What do meteorites look like?
  • Iron and stone meteorites
  • Historica Meteoritica
  • The Peekskill meteorite fall (1992)

  • Solar System Origins (blue section)
  • Allende (feature)
  • Chondrules: Drops of Fiery Rain
  • CAIs: The Oldest Rocks
  • Presolar Grains/Space Dust
  • Meteorite Parent Bodies
  • Solar System Chemistry
  • Accretion: Building Planetesimals

  • Planet Formation (orange section)
  • Brenham (feature)
  • Planetary Differentiation: Crust - Mantle - Core
  • Textures of Iron Meteorites
  • The Asteroid Vesta
  • Mars!

  • Dynamics (Impacts) (green section)
  • Sikhote Alin (feature)
  • Past Earth Impacts
  • Hazards and Probability
  • Meteor (Barringer) Crater
  • The Moon

  • Theater

  • Links
  • Samples from the Hall
  • Ross Hall main page
  • Educator's Guide


Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites
This Hall is about the history of our solar system and how our planet formed. What are meteorites?
Meteorites are like fossils; rocks frozen billions of years ago when the solar system was young.
But what do we learn from Meteorites?
The samples and science of the Hall are organized around these main themes.

These themes provide a broad spectrum of information about meteorites and what they tell us about our origins. Thematic areas cover space from stellar sources of nanometer scale presolar diamonds to kilometer scale impacts, and time from "long ago and far away" to the present and future. Each area has a core display about a particular meteorite fall, introducing more detailed information. The science is presented in a web, with multiple entry points. Scientifically accurate text, artwork and images weave ideas together in a web, with multiple entry points.


Introduction: What is a meteorite?
The Hall is centered on a single piece of the Cape York meteorite, called Ahnighito. This 34 ton mass of iron was brought to the Museum by Commodore Peary in 1904. It is the largest meteorite in "captivity", and the third-largest meteorite in existence in the entire world. The raised platform around Ahnighito contains an introduction to the Hall, telling what meteorites are, what they look like, and how they come to Earth. Historically important meteorites are here, such as a piece of the Ensisheim meteorite, which has been kept safe in the town where it fell in 1492. Around the perimeter are three theme areas: Origins, Planets, and Impacts. The finest specimens from the Museumís world class meteorite collection illustrate these themes. The Theater presents a video that highlights the science of the Hall.

Origins: The history of the solar system is told in meteorites.
The science of this Hall begins with the context and scale provided by the Hall of the Universe. Our galaxy is about 10 billion years old. Our solar system formed about 4.6 billion years ago. Here we display some of the first rocks formed in the solar system. These 4567 million year old rocks are the only samples we have left over from that time. The Museum is a leader in the science of reading the record in these rocks. Our solar system formed from a disk of dust and gas. We have some of that very ancient dust in our Hall, in a vial of sub-microscopic diamonds taken out of the Allende meteorite. These diamonds, and other 'presolar grains' found in meteorites, probably formed in supernova explosions, and are older than the meteorites that contain them. They are the oldest objects in New York City, and in this Museum. Also in this section, we discuss the chemistry of the solar system. Most meteorites come from asteroids. Here we display meteorites that might be pieces not of asteroids but of comets.

Planets: Some meteorites are pieces of planets.
We cannot sample the iron core of the Earth, but some meteorites are pieces of the deep interiors of small planets that were destroyed by collisions in the early solar system. A sample of the meteorite Esquel is displayed with lighting from the back, like a piece of celestial stained glass. By studying the evidence in meteorites, scientists address central questions like: Why is Earth a habitable planet? The meteorites and their histories are a prelude to the science presented in our award-winning Hall of Planet Earth. This section brings home the scale of the science of Meteoritics: From the origin of our solar system in the galaxy, to the formation of Earth and its Moon. Meteorites from Mars are our only samples of that planet. A total of 5 extremely rare Martian meteorites are on display. These rocks were blasted off Marsí surface by impacts, maybe from the slopes of the largest known volcano in the entire solar system, Olympus Mons. We also have three Moon Rocks collected by the Apollo astronauts. These are displayed prominently, with science that we learned from the Lunar program. This Museum has the most Moon rocks (4) on display in the United States, except for the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian).

Impacts: We live in a dynamic solar system.
There are a lot of rocks out there, and some very big ones have hit our planet in the past. Samples of some of those meteorites introduce past impacts, like the life-changing massive impact that occurred at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary. But impacts like that are extremely rare, and we have learned where those big objects are. A dynamic interactive touch-screen in this section presents the real story of our understanding of impact hazards in the present day. The Meteor Crater in Arizona is the best preserved impact crater on Earth. A scale diorama of the Crater presented here, cut away to show the actual original depth of the crater that formed when the Canyon Diablo meteorite hit so violently fifty thousand years ago. This kilometer diameter crater was formed by an iron meteorite about 35 meters (120 feet) in diameter. If the Crater were the size of the new Meteorite Hall, that meteorite was about twice the size of a basketball! We display two large, spectacular pieces of the meteorite, which is named for Canyon Diablo near where it was found.

Theater: Ongoing opportunity.
Our first production for the Theater will present the science of the Hall, "What Meteorites Tell Us", in a way that is complementary to the text, graphics and samples.
The Theater is also an opportunity to add new content to the Hall. Many exciting missions to Mars and the rest of the solar system will occur in the next decades. Here we can present the results of those missions to huge numbers of people in a unique context. For many months in 2004, updates on the Mars Exploration Rovers were presented in this theater each weekday morning by Museum staff including the meteorite curator. In the future, samples of comets and asteroids will be collected and returned to Earth, just as lunar samples were 30 years ago. This Theater is where the stories of these extraterrestrial samples can reach the public, surrounded by the meteorites, the foundation of so much of our present knowledge of the solar system.



Links: Samples from the Hall of Meteorites
These are photos of some of the most photogenic specimens in the Hall.
Including photographs of microscope thin-sections of research samples.


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Last revised: 26-Jan-2008 (DSE)