Permanent Exhibition » Mineral Hall

  • Slice of a pallasite
  • Feldspar crystals
  • Granite
  • Rosettes of black aegirine on charoite

Mineral Hall

In 1828 crown prince William II of the Netherlands and his wife, the sister of tsar Alexander I, donated 808 Russian rocks and minerals to the Brussels Museum, the precursor of the current Museum of Natural Sciences.

These were the first pieces of our geological collection, which today contains more than 5,000 Belgian and 25,000 foreign pieces (or 80% of the types known worldwide). It includes tens of thousands of twin crystals, 500 cut stones, nearly 140 meteorites (four of which fell in Belgium), wonderful fluorescent minerals and even a very rare sample of lunar rock.

Allow yourself to delight in the splendid colours and gorgeous shapes of some of the finest pieces in our collection.

Remarkable Elements

Twinned Crystals
  • Twin crystals: the “Japan Law Twin”

Minerals may attract a lot of attention because of their brilliance and colours, but usually it is their often-complex shape that fascinates visitors. Twinned crystals illustrate this perfectly. They are formed when two similar crystals interact in a specific way. There are different types of twins, with different shapes. “Fishtail Twins”, “Butterfly Twins”, and “Star Twins” are just a few of the possibilities.

You will easily recognise them thanks to the diagrams and the beautiful examples in the “Symmetry” glass case.

A Piece of the Moon
  • Fragment of lunar rock

Apollo 17 conducted the last moon landing in December 1972. Geologist and Apollo 17 co-pilot Harrison H. Schmitt and astronaut Eugene Cernan collected more than 100kg of lunar rock, which is more than on any other Apollo misions.

Schmitt was the first civilian to be included in such a flight. He and Cernan were the last human beings to have walked on the moon.

In this room you can see a lunar rock that was brought back to the earth at that time. It was donated to Belgium by US president Richard Nixon and was given to the Museum by King Baudouin in 1974.

Pyrite
  • Aggregate of pyrite cubes

Pyrite may shine like gold, but it is nothing more than iron sulphide (FeS2) and it is worthless. Hence its nickname, ‘Fool’s Gold’.

The Bernissart iguanodon skeletons were completely filled with pyrite. When clay from the swamps covered the dinosaur corpses, they were decomposed by blue-green algae (cyanobacteria). The acid released reacted with the iron in the clay, thus forming pyrite. It gradually filled the many holes in the bones.

The word ‘pyrite’ is derived from the ancient Greek puritês lithos, meaning ‘fire stone’. Prehistoric man used it to make fire: striking pyrite against flint until there were sparks. The sparks caused a dry tinder fungus to glow, which set fire to dry twigs and grass.

Meteorites
  • Cross section of an iron meteorite

Most meteorites are small fragments of asteroids or comets. They come mainly from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and give us valuable information about the formation of our solar system.

It is estimated that 100 tons of meteorites fall to Earth every year! Almost 90% of these are stony meteorites, such as chondrites and achondrites, which are less than a third metal. Metallic or iron meteorites, which are mainly composed of iron and nickel, account for only 5% of falls. The rarest meteorites are stony-iron meteorites, also known as pallasites.

You can discover the difference between asteroids, shooting stars and superbolides in the same room where you can also see the four meteorites that fell in Belgium.

The Miniature Cave
  • Miniature cave with stalactites and stalagmites

Caves are natural hollows. They are formed by rain and surface water seeping into limestone rocks and hollowing them out. This phenomenon is called the dissolution of limestone by the infiltration water. Some caves are decorated with stalactites, stalagmites and stone pillars and curtains.

How are these dripstones created and what do they consist of? Where do their colours – varying from almost white to different hues of orange – come from? Discover and learn all the answers with our amazingly detailed model of a typical cave.

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