Off Beat Stories

Jan 22, 2010 1:47 PM by Tom Sherwood, NBC

Meteorite crashes through roof

A Virginia doctor is counting his blessings after a space rock came crashing through the ceiling of his office.

The close encounter happened Monday afternoon in the Square Family Practice in Lorton.

"I was in my office doing charts," Dr. Frank Ciampi explained. "I heard a loud boom, almost like a small explosion."

Ciampi scrambled into the hall, where he saw a mess of wood, plaster and insulation.

Among the debris lay a smooth rock the size of a tennis ball.

There was a hole in the ceiling where the space rock apparently made its entrance.

The Smithsonian Institution's Museum of Natural History confirmed that it was indeed a meteorite.

"The first thing we look at is what's called the fusion crust on the outside," planetary scientist Cari Corrigan said. "It's kind of a black, shiny coating, because when it passes through the atmosphere, it's melting a little at a time. So it's like an outer layer of glass, of melted rock."

People from New Jersey to southern Virginia reported seeing a bright meteor fall, followed by a smoke trail the day of the strike.

The meteorite weighs about half a pound, and it likely smashed into the roof at a whopping 220 mph according to Corrigan.

"We're bombarded by stuff like that all the time," Corrigan said, but there's one key difference: Usually meteorites land in one of Earth's vast, uninhabited spaces.

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