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May 12, 2023

Scientists confirm 4.56 billion-year-old meteorite struck New Jersey home

Other fragments of the rare object are likely scattered around Hopewell Township, researchers said

Odd News Science
Meteorite New Jersey TCNJ The College of New Jersey/Facebook

The meteorite that struck a home in Hopewell Township, New Jersey on May 8 is pictured above at a physics lab at The College of New Jersey. The object is believed to be about 4.56 billion years old.

An object that crashed through the roof of a Trenton-area home on Monday afternoon was a meteorite with origins from the formation of the solar system about 4.56 billion years ago, scientists from The College of New Jersey confirmed.

The space rock entered a home in Hopewell Township with such force that it dented the property's wooden floor. It was warm when the homeowners' daughter stopped by and found it in an upstairs bedroom. The object is about 4 by 6 inches and weighs just over 2 pounds.

TCNJ physics professor Nate Magee and other experts examined the rock and determined it is a type of meteorite called a stony chondrite. The researchers said its low iron content likely means it's a type LL-6 meteorite that went through significant changes due to intense heat as it entered Earth's atmosphere.

“Getting the chance to examine the meteorite yesterday was a rare and thrilling opportunity for me, as well as for a group of physics students and professors at TCNJ,” Magee said. “We are excited to be able to confirm that the object is a true chondrite meteorite, in excellent condition, and one of a very small number of similar witnessed chondrite falls known to science.”

The researchers said the time of the meteorite's discovery around 12:35 p.m. coincides with reports of loud noises and flight streaks in the area.

Only about 1,100 LL chondrites have ever been found, and only 100 in that category were actually seen falling. It is believed that this object came from somewhere in the solar system's main asteroid belt, possibly between Jupiter and Mars, although the precise location isn't known. Earlier in the week, Hopewell Township police said the meteorite might have been associated with the Eta Aquarids meteor shower that's usually visible in early May.

TCNJ geophysicist Shannon Graham told the Washington Post she got a call from Hopewell Township police after the meteorite was found.

“If you would ask me, Monday morning, (the) top 100 reasons why I might get a phone call from the police, ‘meteorite’ would not have been on the list,” Graham said.

The object will tentatively be called the "Titusville, NJ" meteorite based on its landing in that community of Hopewell Township. The edges of the meteorite suggest it likely broke off of a larger object during its plunge. 

The family that found the meteorite and brought it in to TCNJ will retain possession of the object, but they have not shared plans about what they intend to do with it.

After learning of the meteorite strike, NASA officials were able to confirm its final flight path using airport weather data.

Hopewell Township shared a message on Facebook encouraging residents to look at their door bell cameras for possible signs of flashes in the sky or loud noises around the time of the meteorite's fall on May 8, between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.

"All residents should be alert to look for black rocks on their properties," Mike Hankey, of the American Meteor Society, said in the township's message. Hankey said it is likely other meteorite fragments are scattered about the township.

TCNJ researchers and other experts now plan to continue studying the meteorite and the event surrounding its fall in hopes of learning more about its origins and its path to Earth.