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Possible meteorite strikes New Jersey home, authorities say

By Jackie Wattles and Tina Burnside, CNN

What could be a meteorite struck a home in Hopewell Township, New Jersey, authorities said Monday. The metallic object crashed through the roof of a house and ricocheted around a bedroom. No one was in the bedroom at the time of the incident, and no injuries were reported.

Police are still working to determine the precise nature of the object, though officials suspect it is related to the current meteor shower, called the Eta Aquariids, according to a statement from the Hopewell Township Police Department in New Jersey.

The Eta Aquariid meteor shower is an annual phenomenon in which debris from the famous Halley’s Comet rains down into Earth’s atmosphere. The celestial event was expected to peak this past Saturday, according to American Meteor Society predictions, though it will last through May 27.

“I did touch the thing because I just thought it was a random rock,” Suzy Kop, a local resident who said the rock fell through the roof of her father’s bedroom, told CNN affiliate KYW-TV in Philadelphia. “And it was warm.”

“I just thank God that my father was not here. No one was here,” she added. “You know, we weren’t hurt or anything.”

The outermost part of meteorites can reach scorching temperatures because of the incredible friction and pressure involved with plunging into the Earth’s thick atmosphere at high speeds, though they typically cool off significantly as they reach the ground.

Space rocks strike all the time, distributed evenly across the Earth’s surface. But striking a home or populated area is rare because the majority of our planet is covered in oceans or undeveloped areas.

A meteorite strike is not, however, unheard of.

In November, for example, an object believed to be a meteorite from the Taurid meteor shower struck a house in Northern California, according to CNN affiliate KCRA in Sacramento. A fire broke out soon after. The Nevada County resident, Dustin Procita, was at home with his two dogs at the time of the incident. One of the dogs died in the fire.

Authorities in New Jersey said the possible meteorite that struck on Monday measured about 4 inches by 6 inches.

“It penetrated the roof, the ceiling and then impacted the hardwood floor before coming to a rest,” police said.

The police department “has contacted several other agencies for assistance in positively identifying the object and safeguarding the residents and the object.”

Meteorites can be difficult to distinguish from other types of metallic rocks. Researchers who hunt for meteorites typically look for fusion crust, a glassy coating that forms on the cosmic object’s exterior surface, which melts while the rock plummets through the Earth’s atmosphere.

Another distinguishing characteristic is the potential specimen’s weight. A meteorite will be much heavier for its size than a typical Earth rock because it’s packed with dense metals.

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