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Moon Craters by Vanessa and Chris

We're crazy about astronomy! We've even made our own telescopes. We were looking at the moon one night and noticed just how many craters there are on the moon. We could even see differences in the various craters, which got us thinking: How do craters form?

What did we do?
We asked our teacher for an idea on how to make a moonscape. She suggested putting a deep layer of flour into a cake pan, then sprinkling a thin layer of cocoa over that. We found some marbles to act as meteors and got ready to drop the marbles into the cake pan. To see if we could get different crater shapes, we decided to drop the marbles from four different heights: 50 cm, 100 cm, 150 cm and 200 cm. We then dropped three marbles from each height, so we could have several craters to examine. We measured the diameter of each crater and its depth. Finally, we compared our homemade craters to the ones we could see on the moon, using the telescope at the Yale Observatory.

What did we find out?
We found that the smaller craters formed when we dropped the marbles from 50 cm. The craters got bigger when we dropped the marbles from higher positions. We also saw that the craters were deeper from the "higher drop" positions. We figured that the marbles were falling faster when they started higher up and this made deeper and larger craters.

What can you do?
  • Try using different materials to make the moonscape. Put a one-inch layer of sand in the cake pan, then a thin layer of flour and cocoa powder. How does this change the shape and size of the craters when you drop the marbles now?
  • Find a moon map and learn the names of some of the craters. Many craters are named after important scientists. Learn about the scientists whose names appear on the moon map.
  • We only see one side of the moon. How would we get a view of the backside?
  • Use this space science investigation as a science fair project idea for your elementary or middle school science fair! Then tell us about it!
more resources
More on the Moon

Go to the DFTV Boards, and tell us about your science investigation.
whiz quiz
How large is the average meteor?

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