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Make Your Own Awesome Asteroid

Asteroid collision led to the building of planets (artist concept)

Credits: NASA, JPL-Caltech

Asteroids are leftover rocky parts of the solar system.

Some have not changed very much in 4.5 billion years and some have partly melted. Others have completely melted and formed iron-nickel core with rocky material on top.

All asteroids exhibit craters that record collisions between asteroids – big and small. They tell us about the formation and history of the Solar System. Some have loose particles on their surfaces while others are bare rock.

In this activity, create your own awesome asteroid. Maybe it will look like asteroid Bennu!

You will need

Credit: University of Arizona

How it works

  1. Select clay as desired and adds "silicates" (rocks and/or sand) to make an awesome, one-of-a-kind asteroid.
  2.  For a rubble-pile asteroid gently combine different clay and rocks to form a loose mix of materials. Leave some space between the fragments.
  3.  For an asteroid that has melted, start with a metal ball bearing and layer different colored clays over it. The outer portion might look rocky or have sand that didn't melt. The metal ball-bearing is the iron-nickel core.
  4. Add some craters – big and small. Overlap a few of them where asteroids collided in the same area at different times.

Discussion questions

  • Is your asteroid strong enough to withstand a collision with another asteroid?
  • Why or why not?
  • How would your asteroid reflect sunlight as it spins?

This activity is courtesy of the University of Arizona and the OSIRIS-REx Ambassadors program.

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