Home » Titusville, NJ now a part of astronomy history

Titusville, NJ now a part of astronomy history

by Deborah Howlett

Experts at The College of New Jersey confirmed Thursday that the black chunk of rock that crashed through Joe Feldenzer’s house in Titusville earlier this week is a meteorite and is likely from a 4.5 billion year old asteroid belt.

“We are excited to be able to confirm that the object is a true chondrite meteorite, in excellent condition, and one of a very small number of witnessed chondrite falls known to science,” Nathan Magee, chair of TCNJ’s department of physics, said in a statement released by TCNJ.

The 984 gram (2.2 pound) meteorite is most likely type LL-6, which means it is lower in iron that most chondrite meteorites, and has been highly metamorphosed by intense heat even before entering the Earth’s atmosphere, according to the statement.

Additional measurements could establish mineral composition more precisely, and confirm or perhaps change the preliminary LL chondrite classification. Advanced isotopic analysis could be done elsewhere to establish more precise ages of the mineral components and perhaps provide more information on the trajectory and timeline of travel from the asteroid belt toward Earth.

The initial determination was made based on visual examination, density measurements, and images from a scanning electron microscope. The TCNJ team also included input from an examination by retired meteorite expert Jerry Delaney of Rutgers University and The American Museum of Natural History.

Among the preliminary findings:

  • Best estimate of landing time is approximately 12:14 p.m. EDT on Monday, May 8, 2023. The home owner confirms that it was still warm when she found it at approximately 12:35 p.m. Several reports of flight-streaks and loud noises appear to agree with the timing estimate.
  • The total weight is 984 grams (2.2 lbs), volume approximately 317 cubic centimeters, bulk density of approximately 3.2–3.3 g/cc. That density is in the usual range for chondrite meteorites and significantly greater than most crustal rocks on Earth. Only about 1,100 LL chondrites have ever been found and are known to science; of these, around 100 were witnessed falls (~50 in category LL6).
  • The parent-body asteroid origin of LL chondrites is not yet known precisely, but it is understood that these are objects from the main asteroid belt, with an age of approximately 4.56 billion years (fairly close to formation age of the sun and Earth, and older than any dated rock on Earth (4.0 billion years).

The meteorite is likely to be named based on the nearest postal address, thus likely to be officially dubbed the “Titusville, NJ” meteorite

“Getting the chance to examine the meteorite yesterday was a rare and thrilling opportunity for me me as well as a group of physics students and professors at TCNJ,’ Magee said.

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