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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

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Supported by UK Space Agency

Create a planetscape

Explore the impact meteorite showers have on Earth by recreating some mighty impacts of your own!

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You’ll need

  • Tape measure
  • Rulers
  • A4 paper
  • Pens or pencils
  • Sand or flour
  • Cocoa powder
  • Gardening drip trays
  • Small round objects of all sizes, like marbles, pebbles or golf balls
  • Sieve
  • Footstool, as needed

Before you begin

  • Set out equipment around the meeting place for groups. Each group will need a set of the items listed above.

Meteor shower

  1. Discuss meteorites and craters and find out how much everyone already knows about them.
  1. Split everyone into small groups and have each group wait by a set of equipment. Explain that they’ll be recreating a meteorite impact. Each group should draw a table to record their findings, with four columns. Label the column at the top: ‘Height’, ‘Object used’, ‘Crater width’ and ‘Crater depth’.
  2. Each group should fill up their drip tray with sand or flour. They should create an even layer about 4cm deep.
  3. Sieve a thin layer of cocoa powder onto the layer of sand or flour. This should make it easier to see the crater on the surface of your new planet.
  4. Choose an item to drop onto the planet from above. Write down the name of the object on your table. Choose a height to drop it from, measure and then record this too.
  5. Drop the object and examine the crater it makes on the surface of your planet. Record the depth and width of the crater on your table, then remove the object.
  6. Repeat this for all of the round objects you have available. Record the details for each one in the same way. You may need to replace your layer of cocoa powder after a while.
  1. Everyone should come back together to share their findings. See if anyone got similar or wildly different results. Compare measurements to see what difference the height of the drop made to the dimensions of the crater.
  • Meteors are parts of the asteroids that have broken apart and survived the journey through space, until they’re caught up in a planet’s gravity.
  • Asteroids are small, rocky objects that orbit the sun. Although they orbit the sun like planets, they’re much smaller. Most asteroids come from the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars.
  • Meteorites are meteors that have come into contact with earth. When this happens, it gives us an opportunity to study the rocks and gain insight into the age and birth of our solar system
  • Some of the rocks that land on earth have been proved to come from the moon and Mars. Also, the craters formed by the impact of meteorites tell us more about the age and geology of a planet’s surface.
  • The largest meteorite to impact earth is called the Hoba Iron Meteorite of Southern Africa – it measures 10 meters across and weighs 60 tonnes.
  • Learn more about meteors and meteorites for your discussion on the European Space Agency’s website.
  • A crater is a bowl-shaped impression, or hollowed-out area, produced by the impact of a meteorite, volcanic activity, or a surface explosion.
  • The moon has many craters. Most were formed when meteors (bodies of solid matter from space) slammed into its surface millions of years ago. On the moon there’s almost no atmosphere, so there’s virtually nothing that can disturb the rocks, meaning that craters and debris from millions of years ago are still crystal-clear on the moon’s surface. Many of these craters are landmarks.
  • Craters on the moon are named after everyone from American astronaut Buzz Aldrin to ancient Greek philosopher Zeno.
  • Many impact craters are found on the Earth’s surface, although they can be harder to detect. One of the best-known craters on Earth is Meteor Crater, near Winslow, Arizona. The crater was created instantly when a 50-metre (164-foot), 150,000-ton meteorite slammed into the desert about 50,000 years ago. Meteor Crater is 1.2 kilometres (0.75 miles) in diameter and 175 metres (575 feet) deep.


When you look at the moon, even from Earth you can see the craters caused by all the impacts with different meteorites over the years. These craters change the moon's appearance and can also cause smaller meteors to break off the surface. Why might it be useful for scientists and geologists to study the impact of meteorites on the moon? Remember that Earth’s atmosphere is very different and far more resistant to meteorite strikes.

It’s fairly straightforward to recreate the impact of meteorites with round objects and a fine layer of sediment. What impact did the size of the objects and the height they were dropped from have on the shape and depth of your craters? Heavier objects should produce deeper craters, while lighter objects will create shallow craters. The larger and heavier the object, and the greater the height it falls from, the bigger the crater.


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.


Supervise young people, and only do science activities that are advised and age appropriate for your section. Test activities first, to make sure you’re confident you can lead them safely. Use protective clothing where necessary.


Remember to check for allergies, eating problems, fasting or dietary requirements and adjust the recipe as needed. Make sure you’ve suitable areas for storing and preparing food and avoid cross contamination of different foods. Take a look at our guidance on food safety and hygiene.

Anyone who doesn’t wish to touch the sand, flour or cocoa powder could focus instead on dropping items, taking measurements or writing down data.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

Give everyone the opportunity to bake and decorate a meteorite cake. Get them to discuss what decorations and icing they would use to make the cakes surface look like a planet covered in craters. They should also think about why the cake itself is similar to a planet, with a crust on the outside and a softer core. Treat the cake like a planet, and make the craters by dropping round objects from different heights.

Everyone had the opportunity to choose which objects to drop, how high to drop them from and how to interpret their collected data.