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Last Updated: Friday June 20 2008 14:11 GMT

UK museum buys rare space rock

Dr Caroline Smith shows off Ivuna

A piece of space rock that fell to Earth 70 years ago has been snapped up by the Natural History Museum.

The meteorite, called Ivuna,landed in Tanzania in 1938.

It has the same ingredients as the Sun, and experts think it may hold clues about the birth of our Solar System, which formed 4.5 billion years ago.

It's been broken into pieces over the years, but the satsuma-sized sample the museum now owns is the largest in any public collection in the world!

Bits of Ivuna will now be removed for experts to study, but the main rock will go on display in a new meteorite gallery being planned by the museum.

Check out the Ivuna meteorite

The meteorite was bought from a private collector in America.

Dr Caroline Smith from the Natural History Museum described it as "a missing piece in the jigsaw".

"Ivuna is a real-life time capsule that means we can look at the very first steps of how our Solar System formed," she said.

Shooting stars

"If we can better understand the complex processes that occurred in our Solar System over 4.5 billion years ago, we can apply this to other stellar systems where planets are forming today."

Hundreds of meteorites land on Earth every year. It's really rare to see one land, but lots of people see them falling through the sky, when they're often described as shooting stars.