When Melanie Casselman walked out of her Pawleys Island home last week, she thought that kids had been throwing rocks at her house when she found a heavy broken rock in her yard. It was actually a meteorite.
“I looked at my house and my windows, and everything looked fine, so I just walked right on by,” Cassleman said in a press release from Clemson University. “I didn’t even pick it up.”
After Casselman’s partner Dennis Suszko found a second piece, about the size of a golf ball, the duo began to search for more. As the couple examined the object, they realized that it was heavier than a normal gravel rock.
That’s when they noticed the damage to the house.
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“As we looked around for more pieces, we happened to look up and there was a chunk of shingles chipped out from the eave of the roof and a dent in the aluminum edging of the house,” Cassleman said.
Eventually, with the help of Suszko’s son, the couple realized that the two pieces fit together.
“We had not even put two-and-two together - literally - but sure enough, the two pieces connect together,” Casselman said. “So, then, this was really something.”
After realizing what they had found, the duo went to Clemson University to have it confirmed.
Sending 26 photos to professor and astrophysicist Sean Brittain, the duo was asked to perform tests to the rock in order to confirm that it was in fact a meteorite.
“The first and most important indicator was the dark, melted material on the outside of the rock,” Máté Ádámkovics, an astronomy professor at the university, said in the release. “It was clear that there were dark compounds with molten rock that showed flowlines - these dimples, almost like fingerprints. This meant that the rock was actually molten while it was moving through the air.”
Ádámkovics then asked Casselman to see if the rock was attracted to a magnet. When the rock connected with the magnet, the professors were able to tell that it contained a high iron content.
This means that the object is an “iron-rich meteorite that landed recently,” Brittain said.
Despite the unique find, the chance of this sized meteorite reaching the ground happens about 80 times a day, the release states.
“But one that hits a house or some kind of populated place, that’s a lot rarer,” Brittain said. “That’s what’s so unusual about this. It’s not so much that a meteor made it to the ground, it’s that it made it to the ground by hitting somebody’s house.”
The duo is now working with Clemson to arrange tests that will help to determine the age and composition of the meteorite as well as its history and origin, as well as searching for a possible third piece.
“These were odd-looking rocks,” Casselman said. “It wasn’t like anything around it, and I jokingly said, ‘We must’ve had a meteor shower last night.’”