The impact of meteorites

May 2, 2012 in Space

Friday, April 29th, 2011, Molecules of Life made impact with Ms Paula’s 3rd grade class at FACE school, as meteors were presented by team meteorite featuring Robert Hopewell (M.Sc. University of. Montreal) and Caroline Steele (BFA, Concordia University.)

Quebec is home of Manicouagan crater, which has a 65 km diameter  produced from the impact of an asteroid hitting the Earth 200 million years ago. The students knew that the impact of another asteroid around 60 million years ago is theorized to have led to the extinction of the dinosaurs and that the craters on the moon were due to asteroid and meteoroid impacts. Meteoroids are mostly ice and may be considered as dirty snowballs, which for the most part melt when coming in contact with the Earth’s atmosphere, which leaves usually only tinier rocks that fall to the ground as meteorites. The moon has  no significant atmosphere such that the impact of a meteoroid leaves larger impact craters as well as dispersion lines from the displaced soil and rocks.

Exploring meteorite impact further with a series of experiments, the students dropped different stone-like objects into a pot containing flour covered with cocoa. Using rulers, they measured the depth of the impact and the distance of the radii of the dispersed particles. Using stones of different weights yet similar size, they gained an appreciation for the effects of mass on the force of impact. Dropping the stones from different heights, they gained an appreciation for the effect of the distance traveled by the stone on its force of impact. As the students predicted, deeper craters and longer distances of dispersed flour were measured when dropping heavier objects as well as when the same object was dropped from a greater height.

Employing what they learned of the relationship between force and dispersion distance, the students used pipettes to drop paint onto a white paper circle. Similarly, they used the force of a plastic knife scraping against a toothbrush to disperse white paint onto black paper. Combining the two, images, the students prepared pictures of planets impacted by meteorite-made craters in space.

Impressed by the power of meteorites and the impact of their forces on the depth of craters and the distances of dispersion radii, the students thanked Robert and Caroline for a project that engaged their  imaginations like a shooting star.

For more on Manicouagan Impact Crater, Quebec, Canada


October 6, 2011 in Space

Thursday the 3rd of December, 2009, Ms Breton’s 3rd grade classes at École FACE School took a trip to the moon, piloted by MoL Team Moon Science, Joanna Mansour (M.Sc. student, Sociology, U Montréal) and Dr. Tarek Kassem (Post-Doctoral Fellow, Chemistry, U Montréal).   Aided by a series of videos (see URLs below), Tarek and Joanna engaged the students in an interactive discussion featuring the many faces of the moon, the theory of its creation, Galileo, Neil Armstrong and of course moon composition, which although it is not made of cheese, like cheese, is rich in calcium.   On re-entry to Earth, Tarek mentioned the importance of friction, the force resisting the motion of solid surfaces, and how the friction of the earth’s atmosphere slows down the space ship creating heat.  The students were then asked to feel the heat created by the friction of rubbing their hands together.  They examined fluid friction by observing the speed of beads dropped into solutions of different viscosity (oil and water).  Sliding a block along books with different surfaces, the students recognized that rough surfaces, which have a higher coefficient of friction, slowed the motion of the block better than smooth surfaces.  Bringing concepts about the moon and friction together, Joanna taught the students how to moon walk like Michael Jackson.  The moon walk was performed with and without shoes to examine which surfaces caused the least friction and best allowed the dancer to glide appearing to float without friction as if on the moon. Exploring friction by rubbing their hands together, clicking their fingers together and moon walking, the students enjoyed being choreographed to dance in ways that were both fun and educational.  After one more moon dance with MoL, the students thanked team moon science for a fantabulous lunar experience.


For a video on the phases of la Lune see:

For a video on the distance to travel to go to the moon and the composition of the moon, see:

For a video on les éclipses, see: