A small, black rock believed to be a meteorite struck a home in Hopewell Township, New Jersey, on Monday, reports CBS Philadelphia’s Tom Ignudo and Kerri Corrado.
The rock broke through the roof and ceiling of the house before landing in a bedroom, denting its floorboards, according to a statement from the Hopewell Township Police Department. No injuries were reported.
“It appears whatever came from the sky fell through the roof of the top window, that’s my dad’s bedroom,” Suzy Kop tells CBS Philadelphia. When she approached and touched the rock after assessing the damage, it felt warm.
The possible meteorite is four inches by six inches in size, oblong in shape and appears to be metallic, according to the police department’s statement.
Meteorites are rocks from space that have fallen to Earth’s surface. They can originate from comets, the moon and other planets, but about 99.8 percent of recovered space rocks have come from asteroids, according to NASA. While an estimated 500 meteorites hit the Earth’s surface each year, less than 10 percent are recovered—most land in the ocean or other remote places.
“Here’s an instance where a sizable object has not only fallen in a populated region, it also hit a house and it was immediately collected by the occupants,” Pitts tells the publication. “The instance of that happening, you can count on one hand over the last 1,000 years, maybe.”
Researchers still need to confirm whether the object is a meteorite. Shannon Graham, a geophysicist at The College of New Jersey, tells WPVI-TV’s Trish Hartman that based on photos and descriptions of the object, it seems consistent with a meteorite.
“If you look at it, it does resemble what certain kinds of meteorites look like,” Pitts tells USA Today. “It stands as a strong possibility that that’s what this could be.”
The police department has contacted other agencies for help with identifying the object, per the statement. Meteorites stand out from other rocks in several ways, according to the U.S. Geological Survey: They usually are heavier than expected for their size, since they contain metallic iron and dense minerals, and they’re often magnetic and irregularly shaped. Meteorites might also have a thin crust on their surface caused by melting while hurtling through the atmosphere.
Chunks of orbiting rocks and metal appear as streaks of light in the sky called meteors, or “shooting stars,” when they enter Earth’s atmosphere. Meteors burn up due to friction from colliding at high speeds with atmospheric atoms, and most disintegrate in the process. When one of these rocks does reach Earth’s surface, usually only less than 5 percent of it remains, according to NASA. Studying meteorites can help scientists learn about the evolution of the solar system.
The suspected meteorite that crashed into the New Jersey home may have come from the ongoing Eta Aquariids meteor shower, per the police department’s statement. Meteors in this annual shower come from a trail of space debris left by Halley’s comet that Earth is currently passing through. Although the Eta Aquariids shower peaked over the weekend, it will remain visible until May 27.
Pitts tells USA Today that it’s unlikely the meteorite came from the Eta Aquariids shower. “My own personal belief is that this is just a happy coincidence.”
In a Facebook post, Hopewell Township asked residents to keep an eye out for other possible meteorites or evidence that this mystery rock indeed came from space. Pinpointing the exact time it fell, for example, could help scientists find the rock on weather radars or video footage.
But Mike Hankey, the operations manager for the American Meteor Society, seems to have no doubt in his mind that this rock had an extraterrestrial origin. “This is most certainly a meteorite,” he says, per the Facebook post. “And there are likely more meteorite fragments now scattered around the town.”