The 'Barratta' Meteorite

The story of the 'Barratta meteorite' has a rather uncertain beginning. One version claims that in 1859 a stockman witnessed spectacular light and sound effects at a place where pieces of the meteorite were later found by fencers.

'Barratta meteorite' specimen

S Humphreys © Australian Museum

Less spectacularly, a second version says that the meteorite was found by chance much earlier - around 1845. However, the earlier date has persisted, suggesting the 'Barratta meteorite' was the first meteorite found in Australia by Europeans.

According to the earlier account, some time around 1845 unusual pieces of heavy stone were found on Barratta station, lying flat on the ground without any noticeable crater. The largest piece was reported to be about 76 cm in diameter and about 30 cm thick, and would have weighed about 100-150 kg.

The Government Astronomer, Mr H C Russell, was shown the rocks and confirmed their extra-terrestrial origin in April 1871. By then, pieces had been taken from the original location by various people, but the owner of the Barratta property donated a large piece to Mr Russell and it became part of the Sydney Observatory collection. This specimen was later transferred to the Australian Museum collection.

Altogether, five pieces of the 'Barratta meteorite' (66 kg, 14 kg, 22 kg, 22 kg and 80 kg) were found at various times between 1845 and 1889. Three are in the Australian Museum collection and the other two are in the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, USA. Small portions of all five stones are distributed worldwide in museum and private collections.

Australia has been prominent in meteorite research, and the Australian Museum holds Australia's oldest and most diverse meteorite collection, which is used for worldwide research into the origins of the solar system and the formation of the planets.


Ross Pogson , Collection Manager, Mineralogy
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