Rock that crashed through New Jersey home may be 4.6 billion-year-old chunk of Halley's Comet
An apparent meteorite crashed into a bedroom in Hopewell Township, New Jersey, on Monday (May 8). A scientific analysis confirmed its extraterrestrial origin.
A rock confirmed to be a meteorite crashed into a New Jersey home on Monday (May 8), damaging a bedroom but causing no injuries.
No one was at Suzy Kop's home in Hopewell Township, New Jersey, when the space rock made its entrance, according to CBS News Philadelphia, which first reported the unusual event. The meteorite landed around 1 p.m. EDT, crashing through the roof and landing in the bedroom belonging to Kop's father. Judging by the damage, the meteorite hit the floor, bounced to the ceiling, and came to rest in the corner of a room. The metallic rock measures about 4 inches by 6 inches (10 by 15 centimeters).
"I did touch the thing because I thought it was a random rock… and it was warm," Kop told CBS News.
Authorities are still investigating the origin of the apparent space rock, but Derrick Pitts, the chief astronomer at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, told CBS News that it could be 4 to 5 billion years old. It’s possible that the meteorite was part of the ongoing Eta Aquarid meteor shower, which roughly occurs between April 19 and May 29 each year, and which reached its peak around May 5 and 6. During peak days, the shower can produce hundreds of "shooting stars" per hour — most of which are meteors that burn up in the atmosphere. These meteors are the rocky debris left by Halley's Comet, which becomes visible from Earth every 75 to 79 years, according to NASA.
"For it to actually strike a house, for people to be able to pick up, that's really unusual and has happened very few times in history," Pitts said.
Meteors enter Earth's atmosphere all the time, but most burn up before hitting the ground. On rare occasions, those that do land cause damage to buildings. For instance, in 2015, a 1.6 pound (712 gram) meteorite crashed into a home in San Carlos, Uruguay, destroying a bed and television. In 2021, a British Columbia woman woke to a loud noise and discovered a fist-sized rock between her pillows; it turned out to be a fragment of a meteor that exploded in midair, causing a fireball. In November 2022, it's thought that a meteorite impact may have caused a California house to burst into flames.
Small meteorites have also been reported crashing through buildings in Sumatra in 2020, in Connecticut in 1982, and in Auckland in 2004. Luckily, no one has been injured in these incidents; the only known example of a person hit by a meteorite occurred in Alabama in 1954, when an 8.5 pound (3.8 kilogram) space rock crashed into a woman's home, hit her radio, and struck her leg, leaving a large bruise.
The meteor event that caused the most injuries did not involve anyone being hit directly by a space rock. In February 2013, a meteor estimated at 59 feet (18 m) in diameter zinged into Earth's atmosphere and exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia. The resulting fireball blew out windows and damaged buildings, causing more than 1,600 reported injuries due to flying glass and debris, according to NASA.
Editor's note: On Thursday (May 11) scientists confirmed that the rock was indeed a meteorite, estimated to be 4.6 billion years old.
Live Science newsletter
Stay up to date on the latest science news by signing up for our Essentials newsletter.
Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
By Robert Lea
By Sascha Pare
By Ben Turner