Waco Gem and Mineral Club, Waco, Tx

Badge 11 Earth in Space

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11. Earth in Space

While we usually keep our eyes on the ground when rockhounding, geology isn‘t only underfoot. The earth is like a little blue marble floating among other marbles and big gassy balls, accompanied by metallic BBs and splinters of ice in the form of meteors and comets. On a clear night, look to the sky, and you‘ll occasionally see streaks left by meteors burning up in our atmosphere. Sometimes, though, they make it to the earth‘s surface, where we can collect them and hold a piece of space in our hands. This unit will teach you about such visitors from space.

Activity 11.1: Modeling the Solar System

Check out a book to learn about the earth and its fellow planets. Then use materials like marbles, balls, and similar round items to make a model of our solar system. Or draw a colorful poster of our solar system on long paper or a big sheet of poster board.

Activity 11.2: Learning About Visitors from Space

In addition to planets, our solar system is filled with cosmic debris in the form of meteors, an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and the Oort cloud of comets. Read about our solar system and learn the definitions of a.) meteorite, b.) tektite, c.) asteroid, and d.) comet. If someone in your club has a collection of meteorites or tektites, invite them to show-and-tell so that you can hold a space rock in your hand.

Activity 11.3: Effects of Meteorites and Famous Craters

Most meteors are tiny and burn up in our atmosphere, creating bright streaks in the night sky that we often call shooting stars. But some bigger meteors make it to the earth‘s surface. If they‘re big enough, they can create craters and shoot out glassy fragments called tektites when they melt rock from our earth‘s crust on impact. Make a crater by dropping or tossing marbles or ball bearings into wet sand or mud. Find pictures of meteor craters in a book or on a web site. Then pick one crater and learn everything you can about it and write a report on it for your club newsletter.

Activity 11.4: Collecting Meteorites and Tektites

If you happen to be lucky enough to live near a known strewn field where a meteor exploded and left fragments over a wide area and you have club members with metal detectors, organize a field trip to search for a meteorite. However, meteorites are very rare and hard to identify in the field. So if you want to add a meteorite or tektite to your rock collection, your best bet will be to purchase one at a rock shop, gem show, museum gift shop, or through a meteorite dealer on the web.

Activity 11.5: Collecting Meteorite Dust

While large meteorites are very rare and hard to find, a constant rain of meteorite dust falls through the air all the time from all those meteors that burn up in our atmosphere. By some estimates, 30,000 to 90,000 tons of such dust falls every year! Work with your youth leader to develop a way to collect such dust to examine under a hand lens or a microscope.