PUPILS were left starstruck when a meteorite dating back to the dawn of the solar system, moon dust and even a piece of Mars arrived at their Bradford school.

Amid tight security, Bowling Park Primary School received the special delivery on Monday and for the past week pupils have been in awe as they got the rare privilege of getting up close with items dating back as far as 4.3 billion years.

The materials are so precious that staff had to keep their presence secret and the Telegraph & Argus is only able to report about them today after they have been collected by scientists.

The samples had been provided by the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), and included a 1.2 billion-year-old piece of Mars and a 4.3 billion-year-old nickel meteorite.

With the solar system only being 4.6 billion years old, it is regarded as one of the oldest materials on the planet.

The samples were collected in the late 1960s and early '70s during some of NASA's first manned space missions to the Moon.

Astronauts brought back a total of 382kg of lunar material was brought back to Earth - mostly for use by scientists in their lunar studies, but small quantities are used to develop lunar and planetary sciences educational packages like this one.

Before the rocks were delivered to the school, STFC members paid a visit to assess whether there were adequate security measures in place and if the school had a secure enough safe to store them.

Last year, the school opened a state-of-the-art science laboratory and staff requested a loan of the rocks to keep the school's budding young scientists entranced by the subject.

Throughout the week the rocks and space samples were taken to all the classrooms in the school with the scientist in residence, Sheila Thomas, teaching children about their history.

Head teacher Stuart Herrington said: "Even the younger pupils knew they were looking at something amazing that has come from a long way away. They were really surprised and excited as they were brought round the classrooms."

Professor John Womersley, STFC’s chief executive officer, said: “This is a great opportunity for young people to be able to see, touch and really experience such important and exciting messengers from space –turning science fiction into science fact.

"It’s an unforgettable experience to be able to hold such an important part of science history that has made such an incredible journey over millions of miles to reach us – and one we hope will inspire the scientists of the future.”

The STFC offers free short-term loans of the lunar samples to educational and scientific organisations within the UK.