[meteorite-list] New Jersey 'Meteorite' Might Be Space Junk
Ron Baalke baalke at zagami.jpl.nasa.gov
Fri May 11 19:05:25 EDT 2007
`Meteorite' turns out to be space junk
By JANET FRANKSTON LORIN
NEWARK, N.J. - A mysterious metallic object that crashed through the
roof of a New Jersey home earlier this year was not a meteorite after
all, but probably a piece of space junk, scientists said Friday.
The silvery object was made of a stainless-steel alloy that does not
occur in nature and is most likely "orbital debris" - part of a
satellite, rocket or some other spacecraft, said Rutgers University
geologist Jeremy Delaney.
"There's huge amounts of material that have been left by the various
space programs of the world," he said.
Srinivasan Nageswaran, whose family discovered the object after it
crashed through the roof and dented the tile bathroom floor at his home
in Freehold Township in January, was disappointed by the news.
"That's the nature of science," said the 46-year-old information
technology consultant "If the conclusion from the test says it's not a
meteorite, then it's not a meteorite. We have to move forward."
The object is slightly bigger than a golf ball and about as heavy as a
can of soup.
Delaney examined it at the police station and initially pronounced it an
iron meteorite based on its shape and density. So did other Rutgers
geologists and an independent metals expert.
But in April, it was taken to the American Museum of Natural History in
New York, where a new variable-pressure scanning electron microscope was
used to establish its composition.
"I was wrong," Delaney said. "Sneaky little devil."
[meteorite-list] Tests Show New Jersey Object Isn't A Meteorite
Ron Baalke baalke at zagami.jpl.nasa.gov
Mon May 14 20:36:10 EDT 2007
Tests show object isn't meteorite
BY JOSEPH SAPIA
May 12, 2007
FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP - The flying object that came crashing through the
roof of a township house in January was not a meteorite, as initially
Not to worry. It appears man-made, not space invader-made, according to
recent testing, information about which was released Friday.
"Basically, it's a piece of stainless steel," said Jeremy Delaney, a
Rutgers University meteoriticist who became involved in analyzing the
item Jan. 3, the day after it fell and when the homeowner notified
The rock-like item was silver and brown, lumpy but smooth. It was about
2 1/2 inches by 1 1/2 inches, weighing about 13 ounces.
Because the object had no specific distinguishing characteristics, "we
can't take it much further" to identify its source, Delaney said.
Although it remains an unidentified flying object, Delaney speculated it
was "space junk," or spacecraft debris.
Srinivasan Nageswaran, whose family discovered the silver object after
it crashed through the roof and into the upstairs bathroom of his home,
was disappointed by the news.
"That's the nature of science," the 46-year-old information technology
consultant said Friday. "If the conclusion from the test says it's not a
meteorite, then it's not a meteorite. We have to move forward.
"It's still the world's most popular metallic object that fell from the
sky," Nageswaran said.
Debris falls daily
About 11,000 items of space debris larger than about 4 inches are known
to exist, according to the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration. All told, according to NASA, tens of millions of space
debris items probably exist.
Over the last 40 years, an average of one piece per day of known space
debris has fallen to Earth, with no serious injuries or significant
damage to property confirmed, according to the space agency.
"Space junk is kind of a default answer," Delaney said, explaining
conventional aircraft would be eliminated as a source because the
Federal Aviation Administration reported none in the area at the time of
Peter Elliott, a Colts Neck metallurgist involved in an early analysis
of the object - and who thought it was a meteorite - suspected space
debris when told of the test results.
The item seems to have come from space because of a triangle-like
pattern, suggesting heat, Elliott said. An item falling from a
conventional aircraft at a lower altitude would not have had the heat
pattern, Elliott said.
About a week and a half ago, scientists viewed the item under a new,
advanced electron microscope at the American Museum of Natural History
in New York, then immediately analyzed the results, Delaney said. By the
end of that day, the scientists from the museum and Rutgers concluded it
was not a meteorite, Delaney said.
The item had chromium, a typical component of stainless steel, Delaney
said. A meteorite would have been basically nickel and iron, Delaney said.
"This particular composition is not one we've ever seen (happening
naturally)," Delaney said.
The delay in testing the item was a combination of arranging schedules
of the Nageswaran family and those of scientists, as well as the
availability of the microscope, Delaney said.
"It's a new tool and it's very much in demand," Delaney said of the
On Jan. 2, the item crashed into the family's home in the Colts Pride
development along Route 537. It went through the roof, then into a
second-floor bathroom, where it bounced off a tile floor and embedded
into the wall, according to township police.
Early on, there seemed a sureness the object was a meteorite. Its shape,
density, color and magnetism suggested meteorite, according to Rutgers.
Household stainless steel generally is nonmagnetic, Elliott said. But
stainless steel does come in magnetic forms, Elliott said.
"There was a sureness in the evidence that was available - the physical
evidence," Delaney said. "But we wanted to test it more thoroughly."
Delaney said he was unaware of any continued analysis now that the item
is determined not to be a meteorite.
"I was pretty comfortable from right when I first saw it (that it was a
meteorite)," said Elliott, who was not involved in the recent testing.
"I wonder how many of the past ones (believed to be meteorites) were
On Jan. 27, the Rutgers University Geology Museum displayed the object
as a meteorite at its open house.
"Oh, well, you win some, you lose some," said Delaney, speaking of the
display. "Now, we are in the position of saying, "Oops.' "
The public, now, has a glimpse of how scientific analysis works, Delaney
"New experimental evidence routinely causes scientists to change earlier
hypotheses that were based on the best information available at that
time," Delaney said.
After the object crashed through the roof, various people reported
objects falling from the sky. Delaney viewed up to 50 objects, with all
turning out to be a "meteorwrong" - not a meteorite.
Of the 50, only one falling in the "same general area" on possibly the
same day might be related debris, Delaney said. No more information was
immediately available on the other object.
Aircraft debris would have fallen at the same time, while orbiting
debris could have fallen over hours, Delaney said.
Had it been a meteorite, within the context of it crashing through a
house, "it was probably worth several thousand dollars," Delaney said.
And, now that it is likely man-made debris?
"Zero, regrettably," Delaney said.
[meteorite-list] "SNEAKY LITTLE DEVILS" NJO CONFIRMED METEORWRONG
Eric Twelker twelker at alaska.net
Sun May 13 17:50:18 EDT 2007
This incident is a sad bit of commentary on the relationship of the
commercial meteorite community to scientists and, perhaps, on the state of
science in general. I was able to warn Dr. Delaney early-on that the object
was not a freshly fallen meteorite and to forward some of the correspondence
from this list to him. He chose not to heed the warningwhich of course is
his choice to make.
Those of us who are lucky enough to have hundreds or thousands of meteorites
pass through our hands possess a store of knowledge that has real value to
academics that haven¹t had this experience. Our knowledge is, for the most
part, available for the askingor sometimes even without asking. The better
course for the scientist is to recognize when they need help and to resist
the notion of a divide between science and the commercial world. In my
experience, this is what the best scientists do.
> Not to keep flogging this dead horse, but I also am skeptical about these
> guys continuing to identify the source of the object without any evidence to
> What makes them so convinced that it actually came from space?
> Is there an indication of ablation? There would have to be, right?
> It sure doesn't look like there is.
> They may be eating crow again...
> From: Darryl Pitt <darryl at dof3.com>
> To: Meteorite List <meteorite-list at meteoritecentral.com>
> Subject: [meteorite-list] "SNEAKY LITTLE DEVILS" NJO CONFIRMED METEORWRONG
> Date: Sat, 12 May 2007 06:26:42 -0400
> It has finally been determined by experts that the NJO is not a meteorite.
> In Friday's AP story, Rutgers University geologist Jerry Delaney was quoted
> as saying,"I was wrong. Sneaky little devil."
> The second sentiment is not even remotely accurate.
> As I mentioned to the list in January, there was absolutely nothing about
> the NJO which resembled a new meteorite. I advised the Newark Star Ledger,
> The New York Times and AP in writing that the NJO was not a meteorite. I
> contacted the museum at Rutgers prior to their exhibition of the
> object---which generated the largest attendance on a single day---that this
> was not a meteorite.
> The only "sneaky little devils" are the folks at Rutgers University.
> Stories are released on Friday nights so the story will miss the news
> cycle. It's for stories that would cause embarrassment; it's for those
> moments where you hope the story disappears.
> This is just so deplorable---and it's not an isolated instance of how an
> institution with something to gain---and the media---work. But for
> scientists to be so sloppy in THEIR work is just so....disappointing. As I
> wrote to the list several months ago: "While [this] may ultimately be among
> the most unusual freshly fallen meteorites known to exist, such an
> assessment cannot and should not ever have been made by simply passing it
> around for a casual analysis and singing kumbaya."
> Here is the latest story....in case you missed it.
> Depth of Field Management
> 1501 Broadway Suite 1304
> New York, New York 10036