Almost every meteorite is older than any Earth rock. Every single one of them testifies to a particular stage of the solar system formation and contains information that cannot be found in any Earth rock.

To discover in the exhibition

The survivors

In this final part, visitors find out, thanks to chondrules, refractory inclusions and other presolar grains, everything meteorites can tell us about the origins of our solar system. © MNHN – JC Domenech

Did you say differentiated?

Not only are pallasites some of the most beautiful meteorites but their scientific significance is also considerable. They give us access to rare samples of the mantle of differentiated meteorites. © MNHN – JC Domenech

Iron core

Iron meteorites are spectacular… Thanks to them, the metal core of asteroids and planets reveals its secrets and provides insight on the Earth’s inaccessible core. © MNHN – JC Domenech

From Mars and the Moon

To complete this journey in search for our origins, visitors have the opportunity to see and even to touch extremely rare meteorites: small fragments of Mars and the Moon. Here, the lunar meteorite Northwest Africa 482. © MNHN – JC Domenech

Multiplayer game “the meteorite factory”

The game “the meteorite factory” invites children and adults alike to retrace the history of an iron meteorite and a chondrite, from the birth of the asteroids from which they originate to their arrival on Earth. Alpha Studio © MNHN – JC Domenech

What can we learn from meteorites?

The laboratory study of meteorites is complementary to space exploration missions and astronomical observations. This analysis makes it possible to retrace the beginnings of the solar system, 4,56 billion years ago as well as the process of planetary formation, the formation of the Moon and the history of Earth or the search for water on Mars…

Global mosaic of 102 images of Mars taken from orbit 1,334, on 22 February 1980 (Viking 1 Orbiter, MG07S078-334SP)
Global mosaic of 102 images of Mars taken from orbit 1,334, on 22 February 1980 (Viking 1 Orbiter, MG07S078-334SP) © NASA

Chondrites and the beginnings of the solar system

Scientists have discovered in certain chondrites rare microscopic grains that were formed before the Sun itself - presolar grains. This stardust, that has reached us intact, provides us with information on how stars function. The solar system originated from this primordial dust.

A presolar grain in the Murchison meteorite
A presolar grain in the Murchison meteorite © Larry R Nittler

Time Markers

  • Big bang (formation of the universe): 

    13,8 billion years ago
  • Formation of the solar system:
    4,567 billion years ago

  • Oldest fossils:

    3,5 billion years ago

  • The Cambrian explosion (diversification of life):
    540 million years ago
  • Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event (the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs, ammonites…):
    66 million years ago
  • The appearance of homininae (bipedal humans):
    7 million years ago

Differentiated asteroids: at the very core of planetary formation

Iron meteorites bear witness to the gigantic collisions that uncovered the iron core of the differentiated asteroids they originate from. They also provide a means to specify the formation conditions of the metallic cores of large asteroids and planets. This is an indirect way to study the Earth’s core - a structure that is currently entirely unaccessible to us.

The Widmanstätten Patterns

When one puts acid on an iron meteorite, geometric patterns appear: the Widmanstätten patterns. This is not the case when one uses a sample of iron produced from metallurgy processing. Indeed, these patterns are characteristic of a metal that took millions of years to cool down. It is thus an effective way to identify meteoric iron. The structure revealed from the Mount Edith iron meteorite, found in 1913 in Australia, reflects such cooling process within the metallic core of the asteroid from which it originates.

The  Mount Edith meteorite. Iron meteorite found in Australia in 1913.
The Mount Edith meteorite. Iron meteorite found in Australia in 1913. © MNHN - JC Domenech


Mars was the first planet to form in the solar system, within less than 10 million years. It is estimated that it took one hundred million additional years and a great number of successive collisions for the Earth and Venus to complete their development. The study of meteorites enables to understand the major stages of planetary formation and the geological evolution of these celestial bodies, including the Moon and the Earth.

The far side of the Moon
The far side of the Moon © NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Research in Deserts

Scientists are always searching for new meteorites because new specimens carry the promise of new discoveries. Although meteorites fall everywhere on Earth, most falls go unnoticed. Deserts are ideal places to look for them: it is easier to spot them since they are not concealed by vegetation and, most of all, because they accumulate for hundreds of thousands of years in these zones that often present stable climatic conditions. Scientific expeditions are thus always organised in hot and cold deserts.