Science Explorations
Level 1
Level 2
Journey into Space

Level 2

Grade Level: 6–10

Activate Asteroids!
Experiment with speed and angle to direct the course of an asteroid.

  1. Print and distribute the Asteroid Chart (PDF)
  2. Discuss that there are many objects in space and they are all in constant motion due to gravity. Asteroids make up one kind of space object.
  3. Once students have launched the activity, have them select both the asteroid belt and the sun to gather information about the environment for this challenge.
  4. Students will choose to accept one of three challenges, to make the asteroid:

    •Crash into the Sun
    •Orbit around the Sun
    •Slingshot around the Sun and shoot out into space

    To attempt to achieve the objective, students will select first a speed and then an angle. The results of the speed/angle combination will be portrayed through both an animated simulation and text.

Use this teacher solution to guide students.

V=22 km/s
(kilometers per second)
V=26 km/s
(kilometers per second)
(asteroid collides with the Sun and intersects Earth’s orbit)
(asteroid collides with the Sun and intersects Earth’s orbit)
10° O X
(asteroid orbits the Sun and intersects Earth’s orbit)
(asteroid escapes the solar system and intersects Earth’s orbit)
45° / 30° O
(asteroid orbits the Sun and does not intersect Earth’s orbit)
(asteroid escapes the solar system and does not intersect Earth’s orbit)
  1. Invite students to work through the challenges, recording their results for each combination of speed and angle. Students can try the same challenge multiple times with different variables.
  2. Ask students to speculate about how other speeds and angles might affect the results.

Check out photos, artists’ renderings, articles, and simulations and discover what’s created when space objects collide.

  1. Students now have a grasp of how speed and angle affect objects in space. Encourage them to explore the effects of space collisions. By using these rich resources, students will spark their imagination and follow their own interests.
  2. After exploring all the resources, invite students to create their own artistic rendering of a space collision either as a drawing, collage, or a three-dimensional mobile.

Lesson Extensions
For offline activities that encourage self-directed inquiry, check out Backyard Science.

Follow Up Thinking
Continue student discussion with these questions.

  • Have students access the Scientist Top Tips near the top of the page for the scientist’s explanation of Newton’s Law of Gravity. Ask for volunteers to explain in their own words the relationship between gravity and space collisions. What does Newton’s Law explain?
  • Why does constant motion make it extremely unlikely that a large asteroid or other space object will crash into the Earth during our lifetime? Even though it is extremely unlikely, what are creative solutions scientists might explore in order to deter a Near-Earth-Object (NEO)?


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