Inside the Smithsonian's meteorite lab

This is a very cool, behind-the-scenes peek at how researchers at the Smithsonian deal with the problem of studying meteorites without contaminating said meteorites.

This is a big issue. We study meteorites to learn things about what has happened and is happening outside our own planetary system. If, in the process of that, we end up covering the samples with the detritus of Earth, then the message gets muddled. If you're studying a meteorite, you want to be reasonably sure that you're not accidentally studying dust or bacteria from this planet. Clean rooms like the one in this video make it easier to examine these samples in a way that is less destructive.

Learn more about the Smithsonian's collection of Antarctic meteorites.

Video Link


  1. neat.  my immediate question after reading your post was “haven’t meteorites by definition already landed on Earth and are therefore totally contaminated before they can be collected by the Smithsonian?”  they never explicitly answer this in the video, but i infer that since these are Antarctic meteorites, the Earthbound contaminants these rocks encounter are nil, yes?

  2. No, they are looking at tiny gas pockets caught inside the once molten stone. Still pristine, even after the crazy delivery system has done its damnedest.

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