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Last Updated: Monday, 6 March 2006, 08:29 GMT
Rare moon rock goes on show
A Belfast museum is quite literally over the moon about its latest acquisition.

A rare piece of moon rock, which was found in Oman in 2001, was unveiled at the weekend.

A rock from the moon is on show in Northern Ireland

It is part of the Ulster museum's Rocky Roadshow, which explores all sorts of rocks and fossils.

A museum spokeswoman said: "All of the moon rock on earth would fit into the boot of a small car - making our small piece of rock far more valuable and rare than gold or diamonds."

More than 90% of the lunar rocks on earth were brought back by the Apollo astronauts and are owned by Nasa.

But the rock that has just gone on show fell to earth as a meteorite after being blasted off the moon's surface by the impact of another meteorite.

The spokeswoman added: "Although it weighs only 6.39 grams, this is one of the largest pieces of moon rock on display outside of the USA.

"What is even more amazing is that it probably came from the far side of the moon. This was an area never visited by the Apollo astronauts and never seen from earth."

About 20,000 space rocks are estimated to land on this planet every year but very few hail from the moon.

Moon crater
Scientists are trying to find out more about the moon's surface

One of the few ways to understand the chemistry of the moon's surface is by analysing these lunar meteorites - little fragments of rock that are flung into space during great impacts before occasionally winding up on earth.

Only about 30 of them have ever been found in deserts around the globe.

Lunar meteorites are useful for building up a data base of the range of rocks on the moon. But it is hard to work out which rocks come from where, because moon rocks can betray their place of origin.

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14 Dec 02 |  Science/Nature

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