Exploring the Solar System: Craters

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"Exploring the Solar System: Craters" is an active, hands-on activity that demonstrates how craters form, and what they can teach us about the history and composition of planets and moons. By dropping objects of various sizes and shapes into a tub full of sand and other materials, participants simulate the formation of a meteorite crater, and then study the craters using special tools. Scientists use similar methods to study the geological processes on other planets, moons, and asteroids.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 4 - 14

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • 12-inch by 9-inch shallow container
  • 3 lb white play sand
  • Iron filings in container
  • Whitener powder detergent (such as OxyCleanTM) and MDS sheet
  • Safety goggles
  • Marbles (3) in three sizes (small, medium, large)
  • Angular gravel pieces (3) in three sizes (small, medium, large)
  • Ultraviolet flashlight
  • Tongs
  • Magnetic applicator tool


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Astronomy
    • Earth's History
      • Geologic Time
    • Earth, Moon and Sun
    • Solar System
      • The Moon
      • The Planets
      • Asteroids and Comets


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • National Informal STEM Education Network

Source Collection

  • NISE Network


Funding Source:

  • NASA, NNX16AC67A