What is streaking across the night sky with incredible power? A moonlighting superhero? A really big bat? No, it’s a rock from space better known as a meteor. Although meteors do hit our planet, we don’t get bombarded as much as the moon? Just take a look at all the craters on its surface. The reason the Earth is not full of craters is because of our atmosphere which burns up most meteors from the friction as they fall at high speeds toward our planet.
A bag of flour
Large aluminum baking pan like the type used to roast turkeys
Small container of cocoa powder
A range of different-sized objects to act as meteorites such as small rocks or marbles
A sifter or strainer with small holes
Fill the baking pan with a couple inches of flour.
Cover the flour with a thin layer of cocoa powder using the sifter/strainer. The cocoa layer will represent the top soil.
It’s important that you use your powers of observation for the remaining steps of the experiment.
Drop one of your mini meteors two feet above the baking pan. (The meteors will become meteorites when they hit the surface.)
Try dropping the various sized meteors from different heights or lightly throw them downward into the baking pan.
After bombarding your floury surface, reset the baking pan with new flour and a new layer of cocoa powder.
What did you see? Craters are the result of meteorites crashing onto the surface. What did you notice about the craters when you dropped meteors from higher points compared to the ones you dropped from lower points? How about the craters from meteors you threw into the pan? How did the size of the meteors affect the crater size?
Did you notice the patterns of the flour and cocoa? Scientists study the patters of the soil and rock moved by the impact. This material is known as ejecta.
Ask someone to drop/throw various meteors in your pan without looking. Can you guess which meteor was dropped/thrown from just the pattern and size of the crater?
Astrogeologists scour the globe looking for meteorites that tell stories about Earth’s pelted past. By studying meteorites, we can learn more about our solar system in preparation for human exploration of the planets and asteroids.