Maybe Marvin the Martian dropped it off on a jaunt across the galaxy, or maybe it's just another ordinary rock, but a township couple believes the black, gray, gold and green baseball-sized stone that mysteriously appeared in their yard about a week ago may be from outer space.
Joe and Kathleen Marascio hope they are the latest area residents to get a visitor from outside the Earth's gravitational pull after a Freehold Township couple discovered the rock that crashed into the side of their home last week was a meteorite.
"Let's not mischaracterize this," said Joe Marascio, who has lived in North Brunswick for 35 years. "I know the chances that this came from outer space are slim, but all I know is that it looks like nothing I've ever seen on Earth."
Joe Marascio said his wife was outside with the couple's husky-mix dog, Bear, on Dec. 30. Kathleen Marascio was tying Bear to a tree the couple has in their yard when she heard a whoosh and thump to her right.
Thinking nothing of it, she continued to play with the dog. A few nights later, the couple was watching the local news when they heard the story from Freehold and Kathleen Marascio's memory was sparked.
"She told me what happened the other day so we went into the yard and looked for the rock," Joe Marascio said. "It was about half buried in the yard, but we pulled it out, and it looked like nothing we had ever seen."
The rock is roughly the size of a baseball and weighs about 2 1/2 pounds, Joe Marascio said. The object is mostly a light gray with slightly raised areas that are a dull polished black, he said. He said there are concave areas that appear yellow or gold and two smaller green stones embedded in the rest of the rock.
"It's looks like a combination of many things," Kathleen Marascio said.
Joe Marascio called professor J.S. Delaney at the Rutgers Geological Services and asked about the rock.
"He told me that over the past 25 years he gets a call or two a month from people thinking their rocks are from space," Marascio said. "He said of all the rocks he's seen, only two have actually been, so we know the chances are slim."
That does not mean the couple has lost hope. Marascio said he will learn today if the rock is from outer space after a series of tests are done.
In the case of the Freehold Township object, Rutgers University geologists Delaney, Gail Ashley and Claire Condie and independent metallurgist Peter Elliott determined it was an iron meteorite because of its density, magnetic properties, markings and coloration, The Associated Press reported Friday.
Of course, rocks from outer space are nothing new.
Donna Foust, who lives in Coudersport, Pa., said she found two rocks from outer space in the early '60s as a child. She heard of the case in Freehold Township and wondered if the objects she found long ago were similar to the meteorite that tested positive last week.
"When the rocks were originally tested, we were told that they contained only one element that is naturally found on Earth," Foust said, "but we never knew what the rest of it was. I wonder if all these rocks came from the same place."
The rock Joseph and Kathleen Marascio found is just a rock after all.
After believing the rock might be connected to the meteorite that fell last week in Freehold, the township couple learned yesterday that the gray, black, yellow and green stone they found in their yard is not from outer space.
"It's been a lot of fun," Joseph Marascio said yesterday. "It's been quite a mystery and a definite conversation piece. Even though it's not from outer space, we're still going to keep it."
The Rutgers Geological Studies tested the rock, which turned out to be basalt thought to be between 150 million and 200 million years old. The common gray to black volcanic rock is usually fine-grained due to rapid cooling of lava once it reaches the Earth's surface.
Kathleen Marascio was playing with the couple's dog on Dec. 31 when she thought she heard something fall from the sky. After hearing on the local news about the recent incident in which a meteorite crashed into a house in Freehold, she thought her experience might be connected.
"We're still excited," Joseph Marascio said. "It's still unlike anything I've seen in this world."