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Measuring Meteors

So, what exactly is a shooting star? Why would we want to study them?

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Have you ever seen a shooting star? Well it’s not really a star, it’s a meteor – a small piece of space rock or dust that has hit the Earth’s atmosphere.

They usually travel really fast and burn up before hitting the Earth, but occasionally they land on Earth and make a crater. A super big meteor impact would cause major natural disasters – think tsunamis, severe weather, explosive shockwaves and wind blasts. But don’t worry, a team of scientists around the world are working to predict, prepare and even prevent these rare events.

Use this worksheet activity to help you make and measure some craters at home and discover how we can prepare for a large impact on Earth.

What you’ll need:

  • The activity worksheet
  • A large container – at least 7cm deep
  • Flour
  • Cocoa powder or any dark powder that will stand out against the flour
  • At least 3 spherical objects of different sizes eg: rubber ball, tennis ball, fruit or rocks – think small pebbles to fist sized chunks

What you’ll do

Step 1
Pour the flour into the bottom of the container so that the flour is at least 5cm deep. Shake it gently to smooth it out. Cover the flour with a thin layer of chocolate powder, using a sieve.

Step 2
Measure the diameter of each of your objects and write them down.

Step 3
Hold your object at arm’s length, 60cm above the container (measure this with measuring tape) and then drop it into the container. Carefully remove it so that you don’t disturb the crater – you may like to use a tweezers or tongs to help you to remove the object. Measure the diameter of the crater left behind and record it.

Step 4
Repeat this process another two times so that you have three craters for each object. Take photos or make drawings of the craters. NOTE: If you need to re-set the flour in between drops, give the container a gentle shake to smooth the surface. Add more cocoa if necessary.

Step 5
Calculate the average crater diameter for each object, by adding your three results together and then dividing by three.

Step 6
Write down a few sentences describing the results of your experiment. What did you observe? Which object made the largest crater? Share your results with your friends and family. Your parents or carer might even like to share photos from your experiment and journal to social media using #ScitechAtHome.

For an extra challenge

You might like to extend your experiment by dropping the objects from different heights. Try dropping the objects from 30cm and 90cm. Don’t forget to note down the results.

 

Developed in partnership with Seven West Media Education
Media Education | Created for teachers, by teachers.