By Vasco Elbrecht
In this experiment we will be simulating a meteorite impact, using household materials and a video camera.
Introduction to meteorite impacts
Space is packed with rocks in lots of different sizes. Most follow a stable orbit, but once in a while they bump into each other, and also hit bigger objects like planets. In the earth was quite heavily affected by space rock impacts in the past (if a rock from space hits a planet its called "meteorite"). A big meteorite impact in Mexico is believed to be the main cause of the dinosaur extinction. Unfortunately the louse soil layer on earth erodes quickly hiding past meteorite impacts. However, smaller impacts like the one in Russia early 2013 show that meteorite impacts can still happen today.
But before you grab your camera and run outside to learn more about meteorite impacts, you should consider that meteorite impacts are really rare. We can't really wait for one, but we can try to simulate one in our kitchen using simple utensils! So let's get started
Materials and Equipment
- Marble or a small stone
- Deep plate or bowl
- Tab water
- DSLR or compact camera to record a video
- Computer with video editing software
- Additional lights (optional)
- Lens protection (filter, as protection from spilling water, optional)
- Place the marble in the plate.
- Fill the plate with water so the marble is covered with water.
- Mount your digital camera on a tripod and set the focus on the marble.
- (optional) Turn on additional lights. This will allow for a slow shutter speed in the video reducing motion blur!
- Switch your camera to video recording mode and start video recording at the highest frame rate possible.
- Pick up the marble and let it fall into the water several times. Feel free to wary the drop height (1 meter or 3 feet should be fine).
- Stop the video recording and transfer the video to your computer.
- Import the footage into your favorite movie editing software.
- Usually you can go trough the footage frame by frame using the arrow keys.
- Observe the different phases when the marble hits the water. Can you observe special features or patterns that are common to all marble impacts?
- Optional: Use a slow motion effect in your movie editing software to make an awesome meteorite impact compilation. Share it on YouTube!
- Clean up the mess cause by spilling water ; )
References / Links
- Book: 21st Century Astronomy (Third Edition) [Hester et al. 2010]. Chapter 7 “The Terrestrial Planets and Earth’s Moon”