Kop wondered if something more than a pint-size wrecking ball had landed in his father’s bedroom. So he and his family asked physicists for answers. On Thursday, researchers at the College of New Jersey confirmed that the rock fell from space.
The discovery of a meteorite sends a wave of excitement through Hopewell Township, where Kop’s father lives. Since then, hobbyists have flocked to the area in search of more meteorite fragments, and they weren’t the only ones star-struck. The meteorite offers an important opportunity for studying the reaches of space, experts say – one rarely discovered on such a large scale.
“It’s nice to have a fun, interesting story that comes out of the blue, literally,” Nathan Magee, head of the College of New Jersey’s physics department, told The Washington Post.
Christine Lloyd, Kop’s sister, confirmed that the meteorite was in the family but said the family did not want to discuss further details.
Researchers have determined that the meteorite that crashed into the family’s home was an LL-6 type chondrite, a rocky meteorite characterized by small mineral spheres within its body. This species is believed to be about 4.56 billion years old, around the age of the sun and Earth, and came from rocks in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, according to a College of New Jersey news release. .
This meteorite’s journey ended hundreds of millions of miles away, in the drywall of a house in Hopewell, about 40 miles from Philadelphia. No one was hurt Monday when a rock blew through the roof, according on WPVI. Kop found the small stone lying on the floor of an upstairs room. The rock seemed to explode straight through the roof before falling to the floor and back to the ceiling, leaving dents all over the room. Hot to the touch, Kop told WPVI.
The family reported the incident to police, who contacted researchers at the College of New Jersey. The call reached geophysicist Shannon Graham, who was stunned to learn of a rare discovery within a 10-minute drive of the college’s physics department.
“If you 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 with a laugh.
Graham said Kop and his family also seemed interested in learning about the suspected meteorite and its origin. The family visited the college on Wednesday to let Graham, Magee and a team of researchers examine the stone in a lab. Preliminary findings confirm its cosmic origins, Magee said. The team measured the density of the meteorite. It weighs about two pounds and is denser than most rocks on Earth, he said. The researchers also examined its structure using an electron microscope. Under a powerful lens, the researchers determined the composition of the meteorite and classified it as an LL-6 chondrite.
They also gave the meteorite a tentative name — “Titusville, NJ,” after a community within Hopewell Township — after a meteorite expert advised the team of long practice of naming meteorites after a geographical locality near where they were recovered.
The College of New Jersey’s findings confirm just how rare — and serendipitous — Kop’s discovery was. Only around 1,100 LL chondrites were found, according to the college’s news release, and only 100 of those were observed collapsing. While the meteorite was not detected by satellite sensors in real time, Kop’s report allowed NASA to later review the meteorite’s final moments of flight through airport weather radar data, the agency said. announced.
Titusville, NJ is particularly important because of the wealth of data surrounding its landing, Magee said. Further analysis of the meteorite’s composition, its flight path and the holes in the roof could provide a much clearer picture of its trajectory through the solar system – and perhaps help identify the asteroid it came from, he said.
Magee gleaned another detail from his analysis: The cracked edges of the meteorite that exposed its gray interior indicate that it broke up into a larger meteorite after entering the atmosphere.
Officials in Hopewell Township told residents to stay on the hunt for other fragments. On a social media post Tuesday, the township delivered a message from Mike Hankey, the operations manager for the American Meteor Society, encouraging residents to check their doorbell cameras and keep an eye out for other meteorites that may be scattered in the region. Much is at stake, the announcement added: Even the floor or building materials damaged by a meteorite strike are valuable to collectors.
No other meteorite discoveries were reported as of Thursday morning, a town spokesman said. Hankey joined about a dozen meteorite hunters to search the area, but nothing turned up, he told The Post.
“It’s still early,” Hankey said. “I don’t want to stop anyone from looking further.”
Kop’s family has been inundated with calls from collectors to buy the stone, but they have no plans to sell it, Magee and Graham said. Magee hopes to conduct further research on the meteorite in collaboration with the family.
“They’ve been generous,” Magee said. “We would respectfully ask for more time here.”