Oxford

Launton meteorite at Tate Britain

The Launton meteorite
Image caption The meteorite fell into a labourer's garden in Oxfordshire on 15 February 1830

A meteorite that fell to earth in an Oxfordshire village in 1830 is being displayed at Tate Britain.

The cricket-ball sized rock is part of an exhibition by the Oxford-based artist and filmmaker Patrick Keiller.

His installation called The Robinson Institute represents the work of a fictional researcher called Robinson.

Through a series of objects found on his travels, Keiller's work examines the development of global capitalism.

There are two meteorites in the exhibition, one fell in 1795 in Yorkshire and the other is the Launton meteorite which fell near the Oxfordshire village 35 years later - both years of major historical events accord to Mr Keiller.

He said: "1830 was a year of revolutions not just at Otmoor [where the meteorite was found] but also in France and Belgium.

"The first city-to-city passenger railway ran in 1830 and the book Principals of Geology was published in 1830, so it's a kind of key year."

'Three ordinary guns'

According to Oxford University astronomer, Dr Rob Simpson, meteorite falls of this size are rare events. In Britain there are thought to be a handful every century.

He said slightly bigger meteorites that could destroy a village occur globally every 100 years and ones that can create kilometre-sized creators are thought to occur every 1,000 but we have not had one for over 50,000.

No one has ever recorded a human death as a result of a fall but a dog was reputedly killed by the Nakhla Martian meteorite in Egypt in 1911.

The Launton meteorite is normally kept at the Natural History Museum in London as part of its scientific research collection but went on display in the Tate in March.

Its fall on 15 February 1830 was described in an account written by a doctor from Buckingham called Mr Stowe.

In the Magazine of Natural History, 1831 he wrote: "Its descent was accompanied with a most brilliant light, which was visible for many miles around, and attended with a triple explosion, which was described to me, by a person who heard it at the distance of four miles, as resembling the rapid discharge of three ordinary guns."

Patrick Keiller: The Robinson Institute is at Tate Britain 27 March - 14 October and is free to attend.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites