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# Meteorites

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Author: Janice VanCleave

So You Want to Do a Project about Meteorites!

### Purpose

To determine what happens when a meteorite hits Earth.

### Materials

• 6 to 8 cups (1.5 to 2 L) sand (Cornmeal will work.)
• large shoe box or comparable-size container flat toothpick
• 2 fine-point felt-tip pens-l black, 1 red
• walnut-size piece of modeling clay
• ruler

### Procedure

1. Pour the sand into the box, and shake the box so that the surface of the sand is as level as possible.
2. Set the box of sand on the floor, then insert the toothpick vertically in the center of the sand. The tip of the toothpick should touch the bottom of the box.
3. Use the black pen to mark a line on the toothpick level with the surface of the sand. Remove the toothpick and set it aside.
4. Shape the clay into a ball.
5. Stand next to the box and hold the clay ball waist high above the center of the sand in the container. Drop the ball.
6. Carefully remove the ball from the sand so that you disturb the sand as little as possible.
7. Insert the toothpick in the center of the hole in the sand formed by the ball.
8. Use the red pen to mark a line on the toothpick level with the surface of the sand in the center of the hole. This mark should be on the same side of the toothpick as the first mark.
9. Measure the distance between the two marks on the toothpick to determine the depth of the hole. Record the measurement in a Meteorite Hole Data table like the one shown.
10. Shake the box of sand to smooth its surface, and then repeat steps 5 to 9.
11. Repeat step 10 two or more times.

### Results

The depth of the hole in the sand will vary depending on the size and weight of the clay ball. The author measured a hole inch (1.25 cm) deep.

### Why?

Meteroids are all the solid debris (remains of things that have been broken down) in our solar system orbiting the Sun. If a meteoroid enters Earth's atmosphere (blanket of gases surrounding a celestial body), it becomes so hot due to friction (a force that opposes the motion of an object whose surface is in contact with another object) with the atmosphere that it vaporizes (changes to a gas), or burns up, and light energy is produced. This streak of light is what you see when you see a shooting star. When a meteoroid enters the atmosphere, it is then referred to as a meteor. The streak of light is also called a meteor. If any part of the original meteoroid that entered the atmosphere reaches the surface of the Earth, it is then called a meteorite. Meteorites made of material similar to that found in the rocks on Earth's surface are called stony meteorites. This experiment demonstrates the results of gravity pulling a stony meteorite through Earth's atmosphere and into a surface of soft sand. On impact, the sand is pushed out of the way, creating an impact crater (bowl-shaped depression caused by the impact of a solid body).

Most meteorites range from a dust speck to slightly larger ones that strike Earth with no more energy than a falling hailstone. But about 50,000 years ago a meteorite about 150 feet (45 m) in diameter hit Earth with the energy of a nuclear weapon. The crater produced is % mile (1.2 km) in diameter and 667 feet (200 m) deep. It is found in Arizona and is called the Barringer Meteorite Crater.

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