"This little guy is a meteorite," said Jeremy Delaney, who examined the object with Rutgers colleagues Gail Ashley and Claire Condie. An independent metallurgist, Peter Elliott, reached the same conclusion.
"This would be a class of meteorites almost as old as the oldest things we know," Delaney said "This is true solar system material."
While strikes by rock-like objects from space are not rare -- an estimated 20 to 50 rocky objects from outside the Earth's atmosphere pelt the planet daily -- most meteorites are not recovered, and New Jersey had been in a long space-rock drought.
The last documented strike took place in Deal on Aug. 15, 1829.
Delaney, who's verified only three meteorites from among all the objects brought to him in his 30-year career, said he's surprised there haven't been more.
"It amazes me a state this big, with this many people, hasn't had more falls observed and more materials collected," he said. "Most objects I've seen have been meteor-wrongs. This was a meteor-right."
The grayish-brown chunk, given the rather lackluster nickname "Freehold Township," hails from the asteroid belt, a rock-strewn expanse between Mars and Jupiter. It's either the core of a very tiny heavenly body or the fragment of a larger one that broke up sometime over the eons.
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