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Making Craters

In my travels, one of the places that impressed me most was Meteor Crater in Arizona. It is amazing to stand on the edge and realize that such a huge hole was the result of a meteor impact.

To try this, you will need:

- a large bowl or baking pan. Do not use glass.
- flour
- cocoa powder or some colored powder
- several objects to drop into the flour

If you are doing this inside, first cover the area with some newspaper. That will make it MUCH easier to clean up afterwards. Place baking pan on the paper and put at least two inches of flour into it. If your kitchen cabinet is like mine, there is probably an old bag of flour somewhere in the back that needs to be replaced anyway. If you don't have flour, you can also use cake mix, corn meal, etc. IMPORTANT! Ask before you do this. It would be a bad thing to use the last of the flour when someone was planning to use it for something important, like a chocolate cake!

Use a fork to smooth the top of the flour. Now we want to sprinkle the top with cocoa powder. If you don't have cocoa, you can use pepper, turmeric, or another spice that is not white. You do not have to cover the top with this powder. You just need a light dusting, so you can see where the flour is thrown outwards.

Pick an object to be your meteor. This could be a marble, a small rock, a coin, a grape, etc. You can experiment with different objects to see whether they make different features in the crater. Hold the meteor about waist high and drop it into the center of the pan.

When your meteor hit, it compressed the flour and the air that was trapped between the grains. Just as a ball bounces, the compressed matter rebounded, throwing flour outwards in all directions.

Look at the crater you just made. Then look at some photos of real craters. You can find some on these sites:

If you want to repeat the experiment, smooth the surface and add another sprinkle of the cocoa powder. Try dropping several objects to see whether you can see features which would tell you which object hit first. Try throwing an object from the side to see whether it forms a different pattern. Compare the crater from an object dropped from a low point with the crater from a fast moving object. After you practice a bit, leave the room and have someone make several craters. Then come back and see how much you can figure out by looking at the patterns. Then look at some of the photos of the moon craters and see what you can learn from them.