FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP - The mysterious object that shot through the roof of a two-story home earlier this week was identified by scientists as a meteorite, police said Friday.

But the fate of the extraterrestrial mass, likely formed with the solar system some 4.6 billion years ago, has emerged as another unknown in the case of the second known meteorite to fall in New Jersey.

Its new owners, a married couple with a son, expressed some interest in putting the meteorite on a small-scale tour so local schoolchildren could see it, said Jeremy Delaney, a Rutgers University meteoriticist who was among four scientists who identified the object for police and later met the family.

Eventually the family will have to decide whether to keep the meteorite, give it to an academic institution such as a museum or sell it to a collector.

What's for sure is that the object will be in high demand.

Rarely on landings do meteorites come in contact with people. So when they do, the space artifacts are connected with a story that generates interest all around.

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., both of which have extensive meteorite collections, likely will have interest, Delaney said.

Depending on the rarity of a given meteorite, researchers sometimes spend several years looking at the same chunk that fell from space.

"By looking at these objects, we have the ability to explore our deep, deep past," Delaney said. "Meteorites have given scientists clues about life on Mars and the rest of our solar system."

New Jersey's only other known meteorite, weighing an ounce, fell in Deal in 1829.

The precise research value of New Jersey's newest meteorite won't be known unless it ends up in the hands of scientists who would study its composition.

But Delaney said the Freehold meteorite might be of some interest to researchers because it is rich in metals, a sign that it came from the deep interior of an asteroid.

"We all want to know where it's from and you won't get that until you do some analysis," said Peter Elliott, a Colts Neck metallurgist who also helped identify the meteorite.

Its magnetic properties, color, texture and high density convinced scientists within a few minutes of inspecting it that it was a meteorite.

When the meteorite began to shoot through the Earth's atmosphere Tuesday afternoon, it likely was the size of a football, but then it quickly lost mass as its metals burned and melted on entry, Delaney said.

By the time it hit the house, the object was 2.5 inches by 1.5 inches and weighed about 13 ounces. Despite its relatively small size, the meteorite was able to puncture the shingled roof in the Colts Pride development because it likely was traveling at the speed of sound, Delaney said.

It appeared to have hit the home about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday when the mother of the household heard a noise, according to an account given to police by the family.

That night, her adult son found the meteorite embedded in a bathroom wall on the second floor, where it came to rest after bouncing off the tile floor.

On Thursday, the four scientists met at police headquarters with magnets and magnifying lenses to inspect the object. They reached a consensus about 10 minutes later and named it "Freehold Township."

Scientists customarily name meteorites after the place where they landed. But neither the name nor the meteorite designation will become scientifically official until the local findings are reviewed by the Natural History Museum in London, which holds a world catalog of meteorites, Delaney said.

Citing their respect for privacy, neither the police nor the scientists would disclose the names of the family members who now own an object from outer space.