Meteorites at the Natural History Museum, Vienna

The Natural History Museum boasts the oldest meteorite collection in the world, with the first two pieces entering the collection in 1778. It pre-dates the study of meteoritics and is one of the largest collections.

This 300kg meteorite Knyahinya, greets you as you enter the room, from a witnessed fall in 1866 in the Ukraine Carpathians. For a long time this frgament was the largest known stony meteorite.


Fantastic informational displays and interactive “is this a meteorite?” stands keep it interesting for the family, for example with a magnifier you can move along over a whole range of different types of meteorite with the corresponding information appearing on screen as you move it.

Pieces of the Moon

The first of these, a breccia, was found in Oman, while the others are the main mass and slice of a meteorite Dar al Gani found in Libya. The central piece is one of the largest ever found at 400g, from the lunar highlands.

This piece of the Moon below, brought back from the Apollo 17 mission, was one of the samples given out by the USA government to each country, as a symbol of unity of human endeavour.
(Click the picture for full size to read)
Pieces of Mars
These Martian meteorites (below) were a real highlight for me. With less than 100 known Martian meteorites out of all the many thousand now found they are a rarity offering real insights into the planet.

Martian Meteorites under a microscope
Crystals of iron-magnesium silicate olivine can be seen in Chassigny while brownish pyroxene and colorless plagioclase feldspar can be seen in Shergotty:

Carbonaceous Chondrites
These contain carbonaceous inclusions, the small white spots, which were the first solids to condense in the solar nebula, making them among the most primitive meteorites known.

Fossil meteorites
I was interested to learn about fossil meteorites from these two specimens which landed on the sea floor and were embedded in sediment. With time, this formed hard limestone, the sea withdrew and they have been recovered from the Thorsberg quarry in southern Sweden where more than 100 specimens have been found, almost all the ones found to date are from this site. The shape remains intact, but most of the meteoritic material has been replaced by other materials, apart from a few tiny crystals of chromite.

Other meteorites
You can’t ignore the largest piece in
the Austrian collection, this 909kg iron meteorite, from the Youndegin
fall in Western Australia, found in 1884, though apparently a 2625kg
meteorite was later discovered and also attributed to this fall.


This beautiful pallasite, “Eagle Station” was found in 1880 in Kentucky,
USA, weighing 7.8kg. You can see the beautiful olivine inclusions
within the main iron-nickel body.
Eagle Station

This is of course just one room of the huge museum, well worth making time if you are ever in Vienna!