May 09, 2023
A metallic-looking rock that pierced the roof of a New Jersey ranch home Monday afternoon may be a meteorite, authorities in Hopewell Township said.
The oblong object, which measures about 4 inches by 6 inches, penetrated the roof and ceiling before denting the home's hardwood floor and coming to a rest, police said on Facebook. The people who were inside the home were not harmed by the impact.
The incident happened around 1:15 p.m. The Mercer County home is about 35 miles northeast of Philadelphia. Hopewell police have contacted several agencies for help identifying the object.
Investigators said the rock may be connected to the ongoing Eta Aquarids meteor shower, which consists of debris left behind by Hailey's Comet.
The meteor shower, named after the Aquarius constellations, usually peaks in early May and continues through the month. It's known for its long, bright streaks that run close to the horizon. This year's meteor shower has not been ideal for sky watchers because it coincides with the full moon, which creates a strong glare that affects visibility. The Eta Aquarids meteor shower also is generally best viewed in locations south of the equator.
Hailey's Comet, which runs counter to the Earth's rotation, returns about every 75 years. It was last visible in 1986 and is expected to return in 2061. The comet also is associated with the Orionids meteor shower in late October.
Meteorites are bits of space rock, or meteoroids, that survive passage into Earth's atmosphere and strike the ground. Generally, they come from comets and asteroids, although sometimes they originate from bits of the moon and other planets. Most meteoroids incinerate up entering the Earth's atmostphere and never reach the ground. The burning results in bright streaks crossing the nighttime sky.
Those that reach the ground — several hundred to a few thousand per year — usually weigh less than a pound. The vast majority of meteorites that strike Earth's surface are stony materials called chondrites and achondrites, which are composed of silicate minerals. A much smaller group, about 5%, are made of iron-nickel alloys. Some meteorites contain both rock and metals.
Police did not say how much the object recovered from the home in Hopewell Township weighs.
Most of the time, meteorites are not recovered because they land in the ocean or in remote parts of the Earth that aren't easily accessible.
There have been notable instances of meteorites inflicting damage in populated areas. In Ontario, Canada, a meteorite smashed through the windshield of a family's truck in the community of Grimsby in 2009. The owners of the car initially thought the vehicle had been vandalized, but an expert determined the rocks collected at the scene were were 4.6 billion years old.
Despite that most meteorites are small and relatively light weight, they can travel at speeds up to 200 mph, making them potentially destructive when they land in populated areas.
In October 1992, a fireball flashed above a high school football game in Peekskill, New York. The rock seen overhead — about the size of a bowling ball — slammed through the trunk of a parked Chevy Malibu and dented the ground beneath it. The stone, which weighed about 27 pounds, was found warm and reeking of sulfur. It's now displayed at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
In the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in 2013, a meteor the size of a six-story building exploded about 15 miles above the ground and created a huge shockwave. The explosion was found to be about 30 to 40 times stronger than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in World War II. About 1,200 people were injured by the blast, mostly by glass that had shattered.
Depending on weight and composition of a meteorite, it can be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Hopewell Township police said the investigation of Monday's incident in New Jersey is ongoing.