SCHOOL children were given the chance to hold in their hands a 4.3 billion year old fragment of a shooting star.
The truly amazing lump of rock is almost as old as the solar system and nearly a third the age of the entire universe.
The children also handled other meteorites, including one rock from the surface of Mars and samples brought back from the moon by the Apollo astronauts.
The collection came to St Martin Primary School on the Lizard last week after teacher Marcus Conrad applied for a visit on the internet.
“The pupils’ topic this term is time travel and we were looking at travelling into space,” he said.
“I found out about the collection online and applied to have the samples come to school.
“The moon samples are really small and encased in resin. The meteorites are larger and possibly more impressive.
“One of the meteorites is about the size of an orange but really heavy.
“It is quite amazing - it amazes me. I was as excited as the children were at handling these incredible samples.
“I also managed to get some footage of the Apollo landings and I set up a presentation so the children could see directly where the lunar samples came from.”
The moon rock samples, provided by the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), were collected in the late 1960s and early 1970s during some of NASA’s first manned space missions to the Moon.
A massive 382kg of lunar material was brought back to Earth, mostly for use by scientists, but small quantities are used to develop lunar and planetary sciences packs.
The Martian rock is 1.2 billion years old. It could have been blasted off into space by a meteor impact on Mars before travelling millions of miles to fall to Earth as a shooting star.
Other meteorites in the collection came from the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
STFC’s chief executive officer, Professor John Womersley said: “This is a great opportunity for young people to be able to see, touch and really experience such important and exciting messengers from space - turning science fiction into science fact.
“It’s an unforgettable experience to be able to hold such an important part of science history that has made such an incredible journey to reach us. We hope it will inspire the scientists of the future.”