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Investigate the effects of an asteroid impact on Earth through a small-scale simulation.

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Introduction

Name: Alex Hamilton

 Date Started: 30th March 2003

Physics Coursework – Asteroid Collision With The Earth

Experiment

To investigate the effects of an asteroid impact on Earth through a small-scale simulation. I shall be measuring the depth of the crater caused by a steel ball bearing being dropped from different heights into sand.

I shall be dropping a steel ball into sand to simulate an asteroid collision, because the asteroid would be roughly spherical and have a high density, like the steel ball. The sand will react similarly to how the Earth would if impacted on.

Planning

An asteroid, also called minor planet, or planetoid, is any one of a host of small rocky astronomical objects found primarily between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. By the 1990s, more than 7,000 asteroidshad been observed at two or more oppositions, and 5,000 of them had been assigned numbers, which is done as soon as accurate orbital elements have been determined.

Asteroids whose orbits cross that of the Earth on a nearly continuous basis are called Apollo asteroids. About 91 of these asteroids have definitely been identified. Some astronomers would like to mount a full-scale search for such asteroids, partly out of a fear that they may collide with the Earth.

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Middle

Results Table

Experiment 1

Height Of Ball Release /cm

Depth of sand + straw before ball released /cm

Depth of sand + straw + ball after release /cm

Depth of Crater

/cm

Max Potential Energy

/J

Max Kinetic Energy

/J

Velocity on impact

/ms-1

20.0

21.8

22.7

1.1

5.616x10-2

5.616x10-2

2.00

30.0

21.8

22.9

0.9

8.424x10-2

8.424x10-2

2.45

40.0

22.0

22.6

1.4

0.11232

0.11232

2.83

50.0

21.9

22.4

1.5

0.1404

0.1404

3.16

60.0

21.8

22.4

1.4

0.16848

0.16848

3.46

70.0

21.9

22.2

1.7

0.19656

0.19656

3.74

80.0

21.8

22.3

1.5

0.22464

0.22464

4.00

90.0

21.9

22.2

1.7

0.25272

0.25272

4.24

100.0

21.8

22.1

1.7

0.2808

0.2808

4.47

Experiment 2

Height Of Ball Release /cm

Depth of sand + straw before ball released /cm

Depth of sand + straw + ball after release /cm

Depth of Crater

/cm

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Conclusion

I would make it a fairer test by having the same level of sand every time the ball was dropped, as different depths allowed for different amounts of compression so could have influenced my results. On the same note I would also have used a deeper depth of sand, so the effects of the ball could be seen more easily.

The use of more accurate measuring techniques would also have improved the experiment e.g. measuring equipment which uses laser beams to register measurements to a high degree of accuracy, but for the situation I was conducting the experiment this would have been impractical.

Collecting more results will always improve the accuracy of the experiment; it would also help more with minimising the affect odd results had on my averages and subsequent graph. As to the odd results that occurred, I am not sure what caused them, as there are a number of small factors that could have affected the drop. The fact that the height of the setsquare was judged by eye decreases the accuracy of the measurements taken.

I believe that the experiment I conducted could be used to predict the outcome of a 500m radius asteroid hitting central Australia at 4000m/s with some degree of accuracy.

Page  of 8                          Alex Hamilton

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