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To investigate what affects the size of a crater formed by a falling object in this case a ball.

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Physics Coursework

Crater Investigation

Aim: - To investigate what affects the size of a crater formed by a falling object in this case a ball.

Introduction: - Secondary source information from the internet. Geologists have recognised almost 200 craters over the planet. These can be divided into two main types: simple and complex. Simple crater formations tend to be bowl-shaped, complex crater formations are much larger. These types of crater form shallower depressions.

Theory: -

Higher drop = Greater gravitational potential energy,

Gravitational potential energy = weight (n) * height (m)

When the ball reaches the ground all the gravitational potential energy is converted into kinetic energy.

To calculate the speed of the ball when it hits the ground;


Weight * height = ½ * mass * (velocity) ²

Weight = mass * ‘g’

m * g * h = ½ * m * v²

g * h = ½ * v²

2 * g * h = v

v =   2 * g * h

g = 10

For example, drop height = 3 metres

V =   2 * 10 (g) * 3 (height)

V =   60

V = 7.75 m/s

          As the object moves into the ground, material is moved away sideways and downwards.

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Prediction:-  I predict that the higher the point in which the ball is dropped, the larger the size of the crater.  This is because at a higher point there is more gravitational potential energy.  When the ball hits the ground all of the potential energy is converted into kinetic energy.  If the potential energy is bigger, therefore the kinetic energy is bigger when the ball reaches the sand, resulting in the crater having a large size diameter.

Also, when the ball is dropped from a higher point, there is more time for the object to increase in speed and velocity.  This increase in speed will cause the ball to hit the ground harder.  As the sand is pushed down it has nowhere else to go but out, this means the diameter of the crater increases.

To calculate the speed in which the marble ball hits the ground.  I would use the formula:

V = 2 x g x h.  Where V = velocity, 9 = 10 and h = height.

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Evaluation:- I feel my investigation went well, with both my experiments my results followed a pattern which agreed with my prediction, giving me a clear conclusion.  The minority of results that didn’t fit the trend my have been due to:

  • Accidental force placed on the ball when dropped.
  • Inaccurate readings.
  • There is more air resistance at a high point that a low point.
  • The temperature, the ball will travel slightly faster in cold weather.

If I repeated the experiment again, I would change the angle in which the ball is dropped, to see what affects it has on the size of the crater.

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