Moon dust and craters

A ‘making moon dust’ activity was in the fabulous Okido magazine recently and kid M was super keen to try it (she loves playing with different textures). Doing this activity is fun in itself but I added an extra step to show kids how lunar craters are made.

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What you need:

  • Cornflour (essential – 1 cup).
  • Cornmeal or maize flour (essential – 2 cups. Normal flour might work too but the grainy texture of maize flour helps to make an interesting texture).
  • Sunflower oil (essential – 10 tablespoons. Again probably could use other oil).
  • Plastic box (essential – anything that your child can easily play with the mood dust in, ideally with a bit of a side so that it doesn’t go everywhere! Tupperware without the lid works well).
  • Couple of small stones (essential for creating craters).

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What to do:

  • Mix cornflour and maize flour/cornmeal together in the box.
  • Add in the oil and mix together. The texture should be crumbly but also you should be able to mould the moon dust into shapes.
  • Play!

Tips/extra bits:

  • The stones can be used to show how meteors make craters on the surface of the moon. Make sure the surface is flat and then (gently) throw the stone on the moon dust.
  • It’s a bit of a messy one so probably a good activity to do out in the garden if possible. The kids can have a lot of fun playing with various toys in the moon dust as well. Makes a nice texture change from something like play doh, and safe for kids too.

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The science bit

There have been several scientific theories for the cause of craters on the moon since Thomas Harriot drew maps of the moon in 1609 (it was thought he did this about 6 months before Galileo’s moon observations). However evidence collected from various trips to the moon (both manned and unmanned) determined that craters were formed from impact by meteoroids, or asteroids for the larger ones. The atmosphere of the moon is weak and so meteoroids are not slowed down or stopped, meaning that the moon suffers a steady stream of impacts. The surface of the moon is covered by a grey powdery dust and rocks, which allows for craters to be formed.

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Explaining it to children

This is a nice visual one, with the craters in the moon dust easily seen as a result of the stone impacting with it. Look up images of the moon to compare your craters with the real ones, or go one better and get a telescope out to look at the moon itself.

Experiment based on an activity from the fantastic Okido magazine: Moon edition.

 

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