How lunar craters are formed

Two of the more fun experiments in the How the Universe Works book by DK Publishing are the two on how lunar craters are made from as space rocks (meteorites) smash into the moon’s surface. With some simple kitchen materials, we can examine how the lunar craters of our moon and that of Jupiter’s Callisto moon are formed.

Warning:  Do not use wheat-based flour if wheat or gluten sensitive.

Experiment 1:  Earth’s moon craters:

Materials:

  • A cookie tray
  • white sand or flour (try not to pack the flour too much).
  • sifter
  • different sized marbles and balls.

Method:

Step 1.  Pour sand or sifted flour into a clean cookie tray.
Step 2 Drop the largest balls onto the tray first.
Step 3. Drop smaller balls to create overlapping craters.

Craters in sand
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Craters in flour
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Experiment 2:  Callisto’s Craters

One of Jupiter’s 39 moons, Callisto, has many bright, rayed craters. They are formed because meteorites strike the dark surface and throw out bright ice from beneath.

We can see this process in this experiment

Materials:

  • Cookie Tray
  • White flour
  • Cocoa powder
  • marbles or balls

 

Method:

Step 1. Sift flour onto the tray to make a mound.
Step 2. Sift a thin layer of cocoa powder on top. Set the tray on the floor.
Step 3. Stand and Drop a marble or ball into the middle of the pile.
Step 4. The impact of the marble “meteorite” will cause the white flour to shoot out over the top of the cocoa powder.
Step 5. Continue to drop more meteorites to make more craters on your Callisto suface.

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Additional fun-

Save the flour/cocoa powder for a great sensory activity.  Once the kids were done with the science project, I let them play in it (with clean and dried hands).  I also saved it in a covered shallow container (like a cake pan and lid) and they still play with it.  It smells great and it feels so soft to the touch.   Eventually we wil have to throw it out, but it’s been keeping very well since this experiment.

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