Observations and results
How did the size of the craters compare with the size of the meteorites that made them? Does a high-speed meteor make a different type of crater than a slow-speed meteor? Check both the size and shape.
The material that gets moved (or ejected) during the impact is known as "ejecta." By studying the patterns in which lower levels of dirt and rock were tossed up by the impact, scientists can make estimates about how big the meteorite originally was. (Meteors often get incinerated upon impact or disappear over time.) Ask a friend or your parent to make several craters and remove the meteorites; can you estimate the size of the meteorite from the ejecta and the crater?
Meteorites that survive their fall to the surface can also often tell us about where they came from by the type of rock and other chemicals they contain. For example, scientists have found some meteorites that are made up of the same material as the moon.
Why doesn't Earth's surface look like that of the moon? Aside from most of the rock burning up in the Earth's atmosphere before it can hit the surface, craters on Earth often vanish over time as the Earth's surface changes from the flow of liquid water, scraping glaciers, lava-spewing volcanoes or other agents. The moon doesn't have a very active surface, so meteor craters or even footprints from astronauts are likely to stay as they are for a very long time.
Share your mini meteorite strike observations and results! Leave a comment below or share your photos and feedback on Scientific American's Facebook page.
Be careful not to spill the powder when throwing it away.
More to explore
Why Are Impact Craters Always Round? from Scientific American
"Meteorite Nugget Pushes Back Age of the Solar System By Nearly 2 Million Years" from Scientific American
"Meteor Showers: Where, When and How to Look for Them" activity for kids from The Planetary Society
"Comets and Meteors" from the European Space Agency Kids
Comets, Meteors and Asteroids by Seymour Simon, ages 4–8
Meteors and Comets by Gregory Vogt, ages 9–12
Make Moon Cycles—with An Orange!
What you'll need
• Lamp without a lamp shade (preferably, a bulb no brighter than 40 watts, which is easier on the eyes)
• Dark room
• Sharpened pencil