Meteorite crashes into a house in New Jersey

A meteorite that likely belongs to the Eta Aquarids meteor shower has crashed into a house in New Jersey, U.S.A.

A grapefruit-sized meteorite fell from the sky, straight through the roof of a house in New Jersey. According to local police reports, it crashed onto the bedroom floor last Monday. The New Jersey police believe that the object likely belongs to the Eta Aquarids meteor shower, which peaked this past weekend.

Fortunately, no one was inside the house when the meteorite impacted around 1:15 p.m. local time. “We think it’s a meteorite. It went through the roof and hit the floor. Completely damaged, it bounced off this part of the ceiling and eventually landed right on the floor” said Suzy Kop to CBS News Philadelphia. “I touched it because I thought it was some random rock, I don’t know, and it was warm” she stated.

Local news coverage

After the local fire department confirmed that the object was not dangerous, the police contacted the College of New Jersey for further examinations. “I have witnessed several interesting and strange events in my career. But I never thought a meteorite in a house in New Jersey could be one of them” said James Rosso, Chief of the Hopewell Township Police Department. According to local journalist Alex Zdan, it is estimated that the rock weighs around 2 kilograms.

The streaks of intense light flashing across the sky during meteor showers come from small space rocks entering our atmosphere at high speeds. Heated to extreme temperatures due to friction with our planet’s atmosphere, they usually disintegrate. However, not all meteors burn up completely. Sometimes pieces survive the fall and hit the ground.

It is rare for these falling space rocks to hit buildings or people. “It traveled through space all that time and now it has come to Earth and fell right into their house” said Derrick Pitts, Chief Astronomer at the Franklin Institute, to CBS News Philadelphia. “To actually strike a house, for people to be able to collect it, it’s really rare, and it’s happened very few times in history”.

Properties of the space rock

“It was immediately apparent that it was a meteorite in a class called a stony chondrite” said Nathan Magee, Chair of the Physics Department at the College of New Jersey (TCNJ). Chondrites are primitive rocks that make up 85% of the meteorites found on Earth. Most chondrites found to date have been discovered in Antarctica. Incidents in populated areas are very rare.

Magee’s team consulted Jerry Delaney, a retired meteorite expert who worked at the meteorite collection at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The scholars confirmed that the space rock is approximately 4.56 billion years old, which means it has existed since the beginning of our Solar System and represents fragments left from its creation (ref.).

The upper layer of the meteorite has a blackened crust a few millimeters thick due to partial combustion in the Earth’s atmosphere. By using a lens to closely examine the rocks, the team discovered that it is composed of blue and gray-colored minerals, with a small amount of other mixed metals.

The team studied the texture and composition of the rock by placing it inside a large chamber of a scanning electron microscope. The meteorite is an LL-6 chondrite, which has less iron compared to other members of its family. It is 30 to 40% denser than the most common rocks on Earth, such as slate or granite. “So it is clear that it was not an earthly rock” said Magee.

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