Meteorites in Wales

The oldest objects at Amgueddfa Cymru are in the collections of the Department of Geology. The most familiar are the fossils, ranging in age from approximately 550 million years old down to a little over 10,000 years old.

The Beddgelert meteorite

The Beddgelert meteorite, cut to reveal its internal structure. The dimensions are approximately 9cm x 7cm.

However, there are a group of objects that are considerably older than our most ancient fossils. Unlike fossils, they come not from the Earth, but from outer space.

Many of these extraterrestrial objects fell from space and landed in distant regions of our planet, but one of particular interest was witnessed falling to Earth in north Wales.

Bright lights and shattering slates

In the early hours of 21 September 1949, many people in north Wales and Cheshire saw a brilliant light travelling rapidly across the sky. At 1.45 am a guest at the Prince Llewelyn Hotel, Beddgelert heard a series of dull explosions, followed by three or four seconds' silence, ending with a buzzing sound 'like a light aeroplane' which grew in intensity until a sound of shattering roof slates was heard.

The hotel manager was woken by the barking of his dog, and heard a series of irregularly spaced bangs 'like a naval broadside', but then went back to sleep. The next morning, in an upstairs lounge, his wife found a jagged hole in the ceiling, with plaster and a dark-coloured stone about the size of a cricket ball on the floor. Neither the manager nor his wife knew what this was, nor if it was to do with the sounds heard during the night. However, it was recognised as a meteorite by an old miner in the bar that evening, who had seen some in a museum. A neat, round hole was later found in the slates of the hotel roof.

Meteorites

A meteorite is a natural object that survives its fall to Earth from space. As it passes through the atmosphere the outer layers are heated by friction, causing it to glow brightly and giving rise to the visual phenomena of a shooting star. Meteorites can fall anywhere, at any time, but the chances of being hit by one are (fortunately!) very, very remote indeed.

The Beddgelert meteorite is only the second ever known to come from Wales - the other fell at Pontlyfni, near Caernarfon in 1931. The majority of meteorites probably originate from a cloud of small rocky objects called the Asteroid Belt, which lies between the orbits of the planets Mars and Jupiter in our solar system. Collisions or gravitational forces alter some of their orbits, putting them on a collision course with Earth.

Once found, nearly all meteorites are passed to scientists for examination and analysis, although the Pontlyfni specimen apparently resided under someone's bed for over forty years before being acquired by the Natural History Museum in London!

Both the Beddgelert and Pontlyfni meteorites have been examined by being carefully cut up and distributed between various museums, universities and research institutes. As a result, Amgueddfa Cymru is lucky to have a small piece of the Beddgelert meteorite that fell to Earth in September 1949. This can be seen in the exhibition Evolution of Wales at National Museum Cardiff.

Extraterrestrial rocks older than Earth itself

By dating radioactive isotopes of chemical elements contained in them, the ages of most meteorites, including those from Beddgelert and Pontlyfni, have been determined at approximately 4,560 million years old. This is close to the calculated age of the Earth and the rest of the Solar System. In comparison, the oldest-known rocks formed on the Earth itself are roughly 3,800 million years old (in Wales the oldest rocks are about 700 million years old).

For this reason meteorites are of great scientific interest and importance in studying the earliest history of the Earth and the Solar System, and in giving clues to their primitive condition and how they might have been formed.

One particular class of meteorites (but not Beddgelert), of which there is also an example in the Museum, contains chemicals that were generated with the explosion of huge stars; these include samples of some of the chemical elements that form the 'building blocks' of life, and from which all life - including ourselves - ultimately developed.

Comments(11)

David
14 January 2022, 17:26
Hi Terry. My advice would be to go onto the website reddit.com and from there go onto the meteorites subreddit. They have some extremely knowledgeable people on there from all over the world that would give you a pretty good indication whether or not what you have found is a true meteorite. You upload photos of the stone(s) when posting there and usually that is enough for them to give you a strong indication one way or the other. If you are lucky and they think you have the real thing then that would be the time to bring it down to the National Museum for them to take a look. Fingers crossed eh!
Jamie davies
26 December 2021, 23:16
Can sum one please help me as there is no way i could have been th only whiteness to this i have kept quiet about this scince th night it happened as it was all realy strange im from a town called milford haven in Pembrokeshire but between th years of 1987 and 1990 at about between 2oclock in th morning and 4 oclock tht same morning it all happened wat seemed like minutes but ths has played on my mind for all these years i had mentioned it to 1 or 2 people scince th night was ether a friday or a saturday night and back then i would go to pebbles night club wich was a little club on th back of broad haven hotel but 1 night of leaving pebbles wich was part of broad haven hotel i walked a friends to their home in broad haven but it couldnt hav been later than 4oclock on a friday or saturday morning as it was spring time and th sun would have came up a round 5 or 6 oclock tht morning
MY QUESTION IS AS I WAS HALF WAY UP TH HILL / ROAD LEAVING BROAD HAVEN I STOOD IN AMZMENT AS THS MASSIVE METIORITE OR FIRE BALL I MEAN MASSIVE I WAS STOOD OVER LOOKING BROAD HAVEN ACROSS TH HARBOUR TO THIS MASSIVE WHITE UP FRONT AND THEN TRURNING FROM RED TO A MASSIVE BLUE CENTER AND BLUE TAILED BURNING METEORITE FLY ACROSS TH SKY IT WAS AT A DISTANCE OF LIGHTING UP TH OTHER SIDE OF TH LAND OVER TH HOLE HARBOUR THS THING MUST HAVE BEEN SEEN BY SUM1 WITHING A 50MILE REDUS IT WAS SO BIG AND LITE UP EVERYTHING I HAD 1 OR 2 BEERS BIT NOTHING ELSE THS THING MUST HAVE BEEN SEEN BY SUM1 ELSE EVEN IF THY DIDNT SEE IT FROM TH BROAD HAVEN AREA IT WAS SO BIG AND LITE UP THE SKY & I CAN REMBER IT TO THS DAY BUT FROM TH ANGLE I WAS WATCHING THS FROM IT LOOKED LIKE IT WAS HEADING STRAIGHT 2WARDS TEXACO OIL REFINERY BUT WAS TRAVELLING ACROSS CASTLE MARTIN ARTILLERY RANGE SUM1 OUT THER MUST HAVE SEEN THS METIOR IT WAS SO BIG AND TH WHITE TO A BIT RED TO MASSIVE TURQUOISE BLUE CENTER TO TAIL ANYWAY IF ANY1 ELSE DID SEE THS METIORITE THY WILL KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I,M ON ABOUT BCUZ I CAN REMBER IT BEING SO BIG AT A REALY REALY FAR DISTANCE BUT TH LAST I CAN REMBER IT LOOKED AS IF IT WAS GOING TO TAKE OUT TEXACO OIL REFINERY FROM WERE I WAS STOOD WATCHING THS AND WHILE I CAN REMBER THINKING THS IS TH END BCUZ FROM MY ANGLE OF VEIW IT DID LOOK LIKE IT WAS HEADING FOR TEXACO REFINERY BUT IT OBVIOUSLY DIDNT COME CLOSE TO TH REFINERY BCUZ TH SIZE OF THS METIORITE WE WUDNT BE HERE 2DAY IF ANY OF THS MASSIVE METIORITE HAD HIT A SMALL BIT OF TH REFINERY BUT IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN MASSIVE BUT AT THT KINDA ANGLE IN TH SKY THT IT BROKE THROUGH OUR ATSMOPHER THT IT LOOKED LIKE IT WAS GOING TO HIT EARTH SUMWERE I WUD SAY WITHING A 100MILE REDUS IT WAS THT BIG BUT THER WAS NEVER EVER ANYTHING SAID ABOUT THIS THING EVEN ENTERING OUR ATMOSPHERE LET ALONE HITTING EARTH ANYWERE BUT THS WASNT CLOSE UP AND THS WAS FAR FAR FAR FROM ANY SHOOTING STAR,S IVE SEEN ANYWAY I HAVE GOOGLED ALSORTS AND HAVE NEVER FOUND ANYTHING ABOUT THS MASSIVE METIORITE THT WAS SO BIG THT IT HAS TO HAVE BEEN SEEN BY SUM1 OTHER THAN ME EVEN IF TH ANGLE I WAS LOOKING FROM WAS TOTALY WRONG TRODECTORY BCUZ FROM WERE I WAS STOOD THIS WAS HEADING OVER LAND AND SHUD HAVE HIT TH TEXACO OIL REFINERY BUT FOR SUM RESON IT MUST HAV TRAVELED AT A DIFFERENT LINE BUT FROM MY VEIW OF THS MASSIVE METIORITE ITS WAS LIGHTING UP TH CASLE MARTING LAND BELOW IT BUT LIKE I SAID I HAV NEVER HEARD ANYTHING ABOUT THS METIORITE AND THER IS NO WAY IT HIT TH EARTH AT ANYTIME BCUZ OF TH SIZE OF IT IT WUD HAV LEFT 1 HELL OF AN IMPACT CRATOR OR TOOK OUT TH AREA OF MILFORD HAVEN AS IT WAS HEADING FOR TEXACO REFINERY FROM WERE I WAS STANDING AT TH TIME THS IS TH STRANGE PART BUT UN MY EYES IT WAS GOING TO HIT TH REFINERY BUT AS IT WAS ABOUT TO I CAN REMBER JUST COMING AROUND IN MY BEDROOM AT HOME TH NXT DAY CAN ANY1 ELSE PLEASE VERIFY THS MASSIVE COMIT METIORITE WAT EVER IT WAS THER IS NO WAY ON THS PLANET THT I WAS TH ONLY PERSON TO SEE THS I REMBER IT LIKE IT WAS YESTERDAY BUT IF ANY1 ELSE HAD SEEN IT THY WUD NO TH DAY IT WAS ONLY 1 OF 2 DAYS AND IT WAS WEN I WAS 16 TO 18 YEARS OLD LIKE I SAID CAN ANY 1 PLEASE LET ME KNOW THY SEEN THS COMIT OR METIORITE
Terry Eckley
2 June 2021, 17:47
I believe I may have a couple of meteorites. Is there somewhere in North Wales where I could take them to be identified.
G.H. John
25 April 2021, 17:53
Today walking along a stoney sea shore I picked up a black heavy for its size, (7cmx 4-5cmx3cm)that I at first thought to be a shiny stone, but was too heavy. I placed it on a scales it weighed 437 Grams, very slight magnetism on suspending a fridge magnet Near to it there was slight attraction
Stewart Walker
8 June 2020, 19:42
Good afternoon,

I am a metal detectorist, and on my permission (location will be supplied confidentially) I have uncovered what I believe to be a lunar meteorite.

It has a stone like structure with white flecks, it has the pitted surface with one side having significantly less pitting. I have tried the "tile test" and I leaves a streak reminiscent of heavy pencil lead. It is slightly smaller than a ping pong ball and weighs approx 60 grams.
It was unearthed in pyle, bridgend, south wales on 7 june 2020 at approx 11am.
It gives a metallic signal on both of my metal detecting machines, yet it is not magnetic as I've put it on my neodymium magnet and there is no reaction/force at all.
Please do email back asap as I'd like to bring it to you to investigate further.

Many kind regards

Mr S Walker.
Nia Meleri Evans Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales Staff
27 December 2019, 11:04

Hi Gwynant,

Thank you very much for your enquiry. I've passed it on to one of our Curators, who will be able to advise you further.

Kind regards,

Nia
(Digital Team)

Gwynant maxwell
24 December 2019, 12:39
I think iv got a metior ? It’s heavy and not metallic iv had it tested and came back inconclusive what does that mean is it or not . Black in colour and verry hard and heavy iv tryed drilling but masonry bit seam to perish upon contact what have I got ?
Dan davies
19 April 2019, 21:53
I was visting the beach down barry island in south wales when i came across an odd looking rock its black in colour with white clusters and rust looking colour too its smooth to hand i took it home and had a look on thr internet and it came up meteorite

I have done the magnet test its stuck
Weighed the density of the rock
How do i come about getting it checked out ??
Tom Cotterell Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales Staff
3 April 2018, 08:29

Hi Steve,

If you would like me to take a look at it you can always bring it in to National Museum Cardiff. If it is almost impossible to break then it sounds like it could be something manmade, but I would have to see it in person to provide you with an accurate identification.

Kind Regards,

Tom
Senior Curator, Mineralogy

Sara Huws Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales Staff
26 March 2018, 10:18

Hi there Steve

Sounds intriguing! I'm going to pass on your message to one of our Curators, who will be able to give you advice on how to identify your rock.

Best wishes

Sara
Digital Team

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