This is a great ( and very easy ) activity for learning about how craters form. Did you know the surface of the moon has millions of craters, varying from just a few metres across to hundreds of kilometres?
What is a crater?
A crater is a bowl-shaped depression formed by the impact of a meteorite, volcanic activity, or an explosion.
What you need for a crater experiment
A shallow metal pan
Plain white flour
Marbles and different sized balls.
Making Craters with Marbles
- Fill the pan about 2 cm deep with flour, lightly sprinkle the drinking chocolate to cover the entire surface.
- To make a model of the surface of the moon, drop the marbles into the pan, the marbles act as the crashing asteroids and comets.
- Notice how the marbles make craters in the pan. The soil below the surface ( white flour ) is brought to the surface.
- Try with different sizes and weights of balls and see if the craters are deeper or different shapes.
You should find that if you drop the same size marbles from different heights the one that has furthest to fall will make the largest crater as it is moving faster, it has more energy.
Why do craters form?
The surface of the moon is marked by millions of craters, some are just a few metres long and some hundreds of kilometres. Most formed a long time ago when comets, asteroids and meteorites crashed into the moon’s surface.
Craters on Earth
Barringer Crater ( also known as Meteor Crater ) in Arizona was created instantly when a 50-meter (164-foot), 150,000-ton meteorite slammed into the desert around 50,000 years ago.
The Chicxulub Crater, off the Gulf of Mexico is thought to be the impact site of the meteor which wiped out or contributed greatly to the extinction of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period 65 million years ago.
Mount Erebus in Antarctica, has a lava lake in its summit crater.
What is the oldest crater on Earth?
The oldest ( and largest ) impact crater on Earth is the Vredefort crater in South Africa. It is estimated to have originally been 185 miles (300 kilometers) across. A huge meteorite or asteroid created this giant crater 2.02 billion years ago!
More Space Science Experiments
I’ve got lots more fun space science experiments including rocket mice, space sensory trays, water bottle rockets and straw rockets in a different post.
If your children love space, I’ve got lots of brilliant space themed experiments and activities in my book, This IS Rocket Science!