How to identify a meteorite

Did you find a curious looking rock? With the help of these instructions you can investigate if it could be a meteorite (or a meteowrong!). You can also go outdoors and pick any rock for investigation. Or how about hunting micrometeorites?

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Keywords: meteorite, micrometeorite, small solar system bodies

Simulating asteroid rotation

This activity allows you to create the “rotation lightcurve” of an object, matching the approach that astronomers use when trying to determine the rotation rate of an asteroid.

The original version of this activity used a potato as the “asteroid”, so it is sometimes referred to as the “Rotato Experiment”!

Asteroid Itokawa resembles a large rubble pile, rather than being a solid piece of rock. The surface features will reflect different amounts of light as it rotates, causing it to appear brighter and fainter at different points in it’s rotation as viewed from Earth.

Impact calculator

This app allows you to simulate impacts on the Earth, Moon or Mars.

You can select the impactor parameters (composition, size, velocity, angle of impact) and then choose a target location. The crater that would be produced by your impactor is then displayed, along with various facts and figures about the impact.

You can compare your crater with real craters on each of the target bodies.

Meteor camera network

Every day, several tons of material fall from space down on earth. Some of this material are rocks of sufficient size to make meteors (shooting stars) that survive the extreme heat as they are decelerated through our atmosphere. A few times every year, we see big fireballs, meteors big enough to survive all the way down onto the ground.

An artists impression of a fireball seen from space

The possibility of finding a meteorite have sent many out looking for stones that carry the signs of a space rock. Several networks of all-sky cameras exist around the globe, with the aim of doing research on meteor activity. Now, a network is being built to supply schools with unique class room material, where young students can participate in identifying meteors, calculating where their landing sites and their extra terrestial origins.

Here at the Online Observatory, we develop activities and tools that allow schools to contribute in the hunt for meteors and meteorites. The following talk was given at an event held at the Brorfelde Observatory in Denmark, June 2019.

As presented on the Multiplier Event at Brorfelde Observatory in June 2019

As presented on the Multiplier Event at Brorfelde Observatory in June 2019

Do you want to learn more about this project or have ideas on how to make these ideas even better, please contact us with your ideas and questions.

Geogebra files

Some activities require Geogebra files, where students can manipulate arrows indicating the path of given meteors. In these files, they can get acquainted with coordnates and distances of any given event. The files are still only prepared with maps of southern Norway.

Here are a few Geogebra files for download: