Frequently Asked Questions

Are radioactive minerals on display?

Due to safety concerns, we do not have radioactive minerals on display. However, the MGMH does have radioactive minerals in its collection, which are all stored in a thickly walled radioactive storage room designed to minimize potentially harmful exposure to radioactivity. Minerals in the radioactive collection include world famous uraninite crystals from the Swamp #1 Quarry in Topsham, Maine as well as other top specimens such as autunite from the Daybreak Mine in Washington, and torbernite from Cornwall, England and Katanga, Zaire.

Have I found a meteorite?

Since meteorites are rare and there are several materials that are often mistaken for meteorites, please explore the meteorite identification links below before contacting the museum with this request.

Meteorite Identification Links:

 

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Read more about Have I found a meteorite?

Where do meteorites come from?

Most meteorites were formed in the main Asteroid Belt, located between Mars and Jupiter. Asteroids generally follow nearly circular orbits separated by millions of miles. Occasionally, outside forces such as the gravitational pulls of larger bodies lead to collisions with other asteroids, sending them into less stable orbits. For some asteroid fragments, orbital changes bring them into collision courses with larger bodies, including Earth.

What is a meteorite?

Meteorites are extraterrestrial rocks that have fallen to Earth. They are the only geological samples that preserve records of the earliest events in the history of our solar system. Minerals such as pyroxene, olivine, nickel and iron are common components of many meteorites. Scientists classify meteorites based on their chemical composition and structure.