Meteorites have proven difficult to classify, but the three broadest groupings are stony, stony iron, and iron. The most common meteorites are chondrites, which are stony meteorites. Radiometric dating of chondrites has placed them at the age of 4.55 billion years, which is the approximate age of the solar system. They are considered pristine samples of early solar system matter, although in many cases their properties have been modified by thermal metamorphism or icy alteration. Some meteoriticists have suggested that the different properties found in various chondrites suggest the location in which they were formed.
Enstatite chondrites contain the most refractory elements and are believed to have formed in the inner solar system. Ordinary chondrites, being the most common type containing both volatile and oxidized elements, are thought to have formed in the inner asteroid belt. Carbonaceous chondrites, which have the highest proportions of volatile elements and are the most oxidized, are thought to have originated in even greater solar distances. Each of these classes can be further subdivided into smaller groups with distinct properties.