Surface damage: Sophie Duncan measures the impact of meteors hitting the moon

28th March 2003 at 00:00
Have you ever wondered what would happen if a meteor hit the surface of the moon? This simple science experiment allows your students to see for themselves.

For this activity you need a lot of space. Each team of children will need a tall-sided baking tray, some flour, chocolate powder, a selection of different sized marbles or stones and a lot of newspaper.

Prepare your moon surface by laying an area with newspaper and placing the baking tray in the centre. Fill the baking tray with a layer of flour at least six centimetres thick. Gently sprinkle a thin layer of chocolate powder over the top, making sure you cover the whole surface.

Select your meteors (marbles). To get a wide variety of results you need to be able to measure the height from which your meteor falls, and the size and weight of your meteor. Conduct your experiment by dropping your meteor on to the surface of the planet and observing the result, making sure you measure the width and the depth of the impact. Notice whether there are any ejecta (parts of the planet surface that are ejected from the site of impact) and measure the distance these ejecta have travelled.

To renew the surface of your moon use a ruler to flatten the surface and sprinkle additional chocolate powder over the top.

Make a chart of your results. You should be able to look at the relationship between the various factors and predict what would happen when you dropped your meteor from a different height.

The moon is covered with impact craters, many of which have a characteristic raised edge. Your students can investigate this using photographs of the moon's surface. It is possible to observe these craters by viewing the moon through binoculars at night.

Sophie Duncan is project manager for science at the BBC

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