Image: Space debris
Mike Derer  /  AP file
A metal object that crashed through the roof of a central New Jersey home earlier this year was not a meteorite after all, geologists said.
updated 5/11/2007 7:09:18 PM ET 2007-05-11T23:09:18

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."

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