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Investigating cratering on the moon.

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Nicky Outram 10x/s

Investigating cratering on the moon


I am planning to investigate factors that affect the diameter and depth of a crater formed when a meteorite strikes the moons surface. The moon is covered with a powdered crust. When meteorites strike the surface we obtain impact craters. To simulate this without actually going to the moon I shall drop a ball bearing into a tray of dry sand.


Variables that might affect the outcome of this experiment:

  • Height (The higher up, the more speed the bearing will pick up)
  • Size of bearing (This will determine how much sand will collide with the bearing as it falls)
  • Mass of Bearing (The heavier, the faster and with more force the ball will fall)
  • Depth of the sand (If too shallow some craters may not properly form as they might hit the base of the tray)
  • Velocity (this will depend on the mass and height)
  • Flat sand surface (Must be smooth and same depth for fair test)
  • Type of sand (If too dense or big particles the bearing may not displace as much)
  • Angle of impact from the bearing (This would affect the width and depth of crater as the bearing would go in at an angle so the ball won’t have to balance force with the compression of sand underneath)

I will take 10 results (100mm through to 1000mm) and then do them again in total of 3 times and then take the average of the 3 tests to give a wide and reliable range.

I am going to change the height from bearing and the surface of the sand. I will try and keep the other variables the same during the experiment (this is to keep it a fair test). I am going to use the same bearing so the size + mass will stay the same; I am going to drop the bearing from the same angle (horizontally) and will try to keep the surface of the sand as even as possible because if the bearing hit a small stone in the sand it would cause more friction and an upward force due to the larger surface area of the stone compared to a grain of sand.

To make this a fair test I will:

  • Try to get the surface of the sand as smooth and same depth as posible
  • Use a clamp to keep accurate heights.
  • Use all of the same equipment each time I use it, including the same bearing so there will be no size or weight differences.


  • Tray (for the sand)
  • Ruler (1 meter)
  • Ball bearing (15mm diameter, 15.5g)
  • Clamp (1 meter tall), boss + clamp
  • Sand (fine sand)
  • Magnet
  • Vernier Calliper

How to do the test…

  • Fill a the tray about half full with sand.
  • Set up the apparatus like so:


  • Drop the bearing from the clamp at a height of 200 – 1000mm (in 100mm steps)
  • Use a magnet to lift the bearing out from the crater.
  • Record the dimensions of the crater with the Vernier Calliper.
  • Record the results
  • Fill the hole and smooth the surface ready for the next test.
  • Do the hole experiment two more times
...read more.


Height from bottom of the ball to sand surface

Diameter (mm)
























































...read more.


Use finer sand which would make the test fairer because the bearing will not deflect off any stones or larger particles in the sand. Somehow take the measurements better and more accurate, a vernier calliper is the best thing I could think of which is accurate but is easily wrong by a few millimetres.Take my experiment further by using a table tennis ball with a small hole in the side to change the mass of the ball without changing the shape or air resistance of the ball.Look at different velocity and see how that might affect the outcome. This could be achieved by either launching the ball from a catapult of some sort or dropping the ball from a much higher point.Try different type of sands (or soil, fine gravel, etc) maybe a fine sand would have a different result than coarse sand. Because maybe the cosmic dust covering the moon isn’t of the same texture.

The experiment was a success in one way, that I learnt by my mistakes. But my results did not match up with my prediction so in that sense it was a failure. I don’t think I took enough results, more results could have been taken to make a wider and more reliable range but that would of need more time.

...read more.

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