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Moon Meteorite
Moon Meteorite (click to enlarge)

Moon Meteorite

The idea that rocks could fall from the sky was generally accepted by the early nineteenth century. At first, people thought these rocks formed in the atmosphere, hence the name meteorites. By the beginning of the twentieth century, scientists were sure that meteorites came from space and fairly sure they came from our solar system. Evidence mounted that meteorites came from the asteroid belt (between Mars and Jupiter), and until the early 1980s most scientists thought that all meteorites came from this belt.

This meteorite, found in Antarctica in 1981, was the first exception. It is almost identical to rocks that the Apollo astronauts brought back from the Moon, and detailed study showed that it was from the Moon. The white fragments are rich in anorthite, a calcium-rich silicate mineral that makes up most of the lunar highlands. Lunar meteorites have a distinctive greenish tinge to their fusion crusts. Twelve lunar meteorites had been identified by late 1996, including rocks from the lunar highlands and the maria (the dark areas of the Moon). All the lunar meteorites, like the Apollo rocks, are ancient; they formed more than 3 billion years ago.

Credit: Lunar and Planetary Institute

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Last Updated: 21 Dec 2009