Asteroid Collision With The Earth

Asteroid Collision With The Earth

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Asteroid Collision With The Earth



Experiment
----------

To investigate the effects of an asteroid impact on Earth through a
small-scale simulation. I shall be measuring the depth of the crater
caused by a steel ball bearing being dropped from different heights
into sand.

I shall be dropping a steel ball into sand to simulate an asteroid
collision, because the asteroid would be roughly spherical and have a
high density, like the steel ball. The sand will react similarly to
how the Earth would if impacted on.

Planning

An asteroid, also called minor planet, or planetoid, is any one of a
host of small rocky astronomical objects found primarily between the
orbits of Mars and Jupiter. By the 1990s, more than 7,000 asteroids
had been observed at two or more oppositions, and 5,000 of them had
been assigned numbers, which is done as soon as accurate orbital
elements have been determined.

Asteroids whose orbits cross that of the Earth on a nearly continuous
basis are called Apollo asteroids. About 91 of these asteroids have
definitely been identified. Some astronomers would like to mount a
full-scale search for such asteroids, partly out of a fear that they
may collide with the Earth.

Collisions with larger asteroids are rare, but smaller ones are more
numerous. It is estimated that a few asteroids with a diameter of 1 km
(0.6 mile) may collide with the Earth within a period of 1,000,000
years. If an asteroid of this size were to collide with the Earth, it
would produce an explosion with as much force as several hydrogen
bombs.

A short-term disturbance in the world's climate could result, and a
collision in the ocean could be catastrophic. Some investigators
believe that the extinction of the dinosaurs and many other land and
marine animals at the end of the Cretaceous Period (about 65 million
years ago) was triggered by the impact just north of the Yucatan
Peninsula of an asteroid or meteorite measuring some 10 km (6 miles)

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in diameter.

(Information provided by Encyclopaedia Britannica)

The potential damage an asteroid colliding with the Earth can cause is
dependant on a number of variables. The mass of the asteroid, as the
greater this is the larger the impact area; the asteroidÂ’s velocity,
as the faster an object collides with something, the more energy is
transferred. Both the mass and velocity determine the momentum and
thus kinetic energy that the asteroid has – this is what determines
the extent of the damage that its impact would create.

When an asteroid collides with Earth, it loses its velocity. Kinetic
energy and momentum are conserved.

Energy present in Earth and Asteroid before collision = Energy
present in Earth and Asteroid after collision

As the Earth is much more massive than the asteroid the momentum
conserved will change the EarthÂ’s orbit very little and is of no
concern – however the effect of the kinetic energy in this totally
inelastic is not. As the collision is inelastic the asteroid will
impact with the Earth and stay there. This collision will result in a
huge amount of debris being thrown into the atmosphere, seismic
shockwaves travelling through the Earth causing damages to structures
and of course anything within the area of impact will be completely
annihilated

The conservation of Kinetic energy law applies to this:

The kinetic energy will be split into: Heat

Sound

Light

Mechanical damage (work)

It is this mechanical damage that will cause the effects that I have
listed above and could lead to the death of billions of people and
animals.

I shall be dropping a steel ball into sand to simulate an asteroid
collision, because the asteroid would be roughly spherical and have a
high density, like the steel ball. The sand will react similarly to
how the Earth would if impacted on.

I shall drop the ball from a range of heights from 20cm to 100cm in
10cm increments. I am going to do this many, as it is more than 8
measurements per experiment, which justifies me plotting a
straight-line graph. This selection should also provide a visible
trend in the results.

Method

This is how I shall complete the experiment:

One of two trays shall be filled with sand; this is where the ball
shall be impacting. A metre ruler shall be held vertical touching the
work surface by a clamp stand. The sand shall be shaken, and then the
second tray pressed onto the surface to create a level area. A straw
shall then be held on the surface of the stand and the right-angled
setsquare shall be put level against the ruler and used to determine
the height of the straw (cm). This shall provide a reference point to
compare against after the ball is dropped.

The setsquare shall then be held square against the ruler at the
required height for the drop. (The right-angled setsquare is being
used to avoid parallax error in the measuring of the heights from the
sand and the point the ball is being dropped from.)

The ball bearing shall be held level against the setsquare and dropped
into the sand.

The straw shall be placed onto of the ball bearing and the height
measured in the same way as before.

Then the height before the drop (A) shall be minused from the height
after the drop (B). This shall equal the amount of the ball bearing
above the surface of the sand (C). This shall be minused from the
diameter of the ball bearing (2) and equal the depth of the crater.

B - A = C

2 – C = Depth of crater

The sand shall then be levelled again using the previous technique and
the experiment repeated three times from each height.

See attached diagram of method.

Diagram of equipment

Equipment

Clamp stand,

Sand,

2 circular trays,

2cm diameter steel ball bearing (mass 28.08g),

Plastic straw (20cm long),

Right-angled set square,

Metre ruler

Fair Test

Factors that can affect the experiment:

Height ball is dropped from,

Mass of ball,

Diameter of ball,

Amount of sand,

Density of sand,

Velocity of ball

The only factor that I shall be changing is the height the ball is
dropped from (this causes the velocity and as such does not interfere
with it). I shall be using the same ball bearing for all of the tests
and the same apparatus will be used. The same person shall also take
the measurements. The sand shall be levelled and measured before each
drop and the height measured again afterwards without the ball or sand
being moved. The experiment shall be repeated three times for each
height so the results can be averaged and the effect of any odd
results can be minimised. I have chosen this number of repeats because
it is enough to minimise odd result effects and does not take an
incredible amount of time to do. The right-angled setsquare is being
used to avoid parallax error in the measuring of the heights from the
sand and the point the ball is being dropped from.

Preliminary Experiment

For my preliminary test I only did the experiment over a limited
number of heights in my planned range, as I just wanted to gauge if
the experiment appears to be successful. If the results had been
wildly different to what I had expected, (a steady increase in the
depth of the crater the higher the ball is dropped from) I would have
to have changed the experiment. With one exception, it appeared to
work, here are the results I collected:

Height Of Ball Release (cm)

Depth of sand + straw before ball released (cm)

Depth of sand + straw + ball after release (cm)

Depth of Crater (cm)

20.0

22.0

22.9

1.1

30.0

22.3

22.8

1.5

40.0

23.1

24.1

1.0

50.0

23.1

23.5

1.6

The one exception was the drop from 40cm, I do not know why this
result didnÂ’t fit in with the trend, and hopefully by conducting the
experiment multiple times, the effects odd results like this have on
the averages can be minimised.

Prediction

I predict that the higher the ball is dropped from, the deeper the
crater shall be because the velocity of the ball, and thus its
momentum will be greater, the higher its start position is.

Kinetic Energy = ½mv2

Gravitational Potential Energy = mgh

Where mass is in Kg and height in metres.

Potential energy may be converted into energy of motion, called
kinetic energy, e.g. the water behind a dam has potential energy, when
this is allowed to flow it converts to kinetic, but some is lost
through heat and noise.

An object dropped from rest will increase its speed until it reaches
terminal velocity due to the force of gravity acting on it. This is
why the ball shall have a greater velocity the higher it is dropped
from, because it has more time to accelerate.

The formula for calculating velocity is: Velocity = √ (20 x Height)

I believe that may average result graph shall look something like this
judging by the results I collected during my preliminary experiment
and the fact that the height of release is proportional to the depth
of the crater so the graph should conform to Y = mx + c. Hopefully it
shall produce a straight-line graph, as the depth should be directly
proportional to the height.

[IMAGE]

Results Table

Experiment 1

Height Of Ball Release /cm

Depth of sand + straw before ball released /cm

Depth of sand + straw + ball after release /cm

Depth of Crater

/cm

Max Potential Energy

/J

Max Kinetic Energy

/J

Velocity on impact

/ms-1

20.0

21.8

22.7

1.1

5.616x10-2

5.616x10-2

2.00

30.0

21.8

22.9

0.9

8.424x10-2

8.424x10-2

2.45

40.0

22.0

22.6

1.4

0.11232

0.11232

2.83

50.0

21.9

22.4

1.5

0.1404

0.1404

3.16

60.0

21.8

22.4

1.4

0.16848

0.16848

3.46

70.0

21.9

22.2

1.7

0.19656

0.19656

3.74

80.0

21.8

22.3

1.5

0.22464

0.22464

4.00

90.0

21.9

22.2

1.7

0.25272

0.25272

4.24

100.0

21.8

22.1

1.7

0.2808

0.2808

4.47

Experiment 2

Height Of Ball Release /cm

Depth of sand + straw before ball released /cm

Depth of sand + straw + ball after release /cm

Depth of Crater

/cm

Max Potential Energy

/J

Max Kinetic Energy

/J

Velocity on impact

/ms-1

20.0

22.5

23.5

1.0

5.616x10-2

5.616x10-2

2.00

30.0

22.4

23.4

1.0

8.424x10-2

8.424x10-2

2.45

40.0

22.5

23.3

1.2

0.11232

0.11232

2.83

50.0

22.5

23.1

1.4

0.1404

0.1404

3.16

60.0

22.5

23.1

1.4

0.16848

0.16848

3.46

70.0

22.1

23.0

1.1

0.19656

0.19656

3.74

80.0

22.3

22.7

1.6

0.22464

0.22464

4.00

90.0

22.5

22.9

1.6

0.25272

0.25272

4.24

100.0

22.7

23.0

1.7

0.2808

0.2808

4.47

Experiment 3

Height Of Ball Release /cm

Depth of sand + straw before ball released /cm

Depth of sand + straw + ball after release /cm

Depth of Crater

/cm

Max Potential Energy

/J

Max Kinetic Energy

/J

Velocity on impact

/ms-1

20.0

22.9

24.0

0.9

5.616x10-3

5.616x10-2

2.00

30.0

22.9

23.9

1.0

8.424x10-3

8.424x10-2

2.45

40.0

22.8

23.9

0.9

0.011232

0.11232

2.83

50.0

22.9

23.6

1.3

0.01404

0.1404

3.16

60.0

22.8

23.5

1.3

0.016848

0.16848

3.46

70.0

22.8

23.3

1.5

0.019656

0.19656

3.74

80.0

22.9

23.3

1.6

0.022464

0.22464

4.00

90.0

22.9

23.2

1.7

0.025272

0.25272

4.24

100.0

22.9

23.1

1.8

0.02808

0.2808

4.47

Key

Averages

Height Of Ball Release (cm)

Odd result

[IMAGE]Mean Average Depth (cm) (1 D.P.)

20.0

1.0

30.0

1.0

40.0

1.2

50.0

1.4

60.0

1.4

70.0

1.4

80.0

1.6

90.0

1.6

100.0

1.7

[IMAGE]

Line of Best Fit


Conclusions

The trend evident in my results and graph is that the greater the
height the ball is dropped from, the deeper the resulting crater shall
be. The results plotted on the graph form an obvious line that shows
this trend, though it would appear that my results werenÂ’t accurate
enough to get a straight-line graph; as a number of consecutive
increments generated the same results.

I used a number of formulae to work out the maximum potential energy
in the system, the maximum kinetic energy in the system and the
velocity that the ball bearing would have had on impact with the sand.
I collected this evidence to help either support or disprove my
prediction.

My line of best fit shows the how close my results were to being a
straight line graph as it passes very close to all of them. The
straight-line trend shows that the height of drop and the depth of the
crater are proportional to each other.

The proximity of the results that I collected, to what I predicted
would happen, shows that the evidence that I based my prediction on
was correct. My results graph is also almost identical to my
prediction graph, again backing up the facts that I based my
prediction on. In all my results provide a lot of support for my
original prediction.

Evaluation

In all there are a number of aspects of the experiment I would change
and/or improve on if it were repeated.

I would use larger increments between the drops to try to achieve a
better straight-line graph showing proportionality. Having this would
fit in with the calculations and information I based my prediction on.

I would make it a fairer test by having the same level of sand every
time the ball was dropped, as different depths allowed for different
amounts of compression so could have influenced my results. On the
same note I would also have used a deeper depth of sand, so the
effects of the ball could be seen more easily.

The use of more accurate measuring techniques would also have improved
the experiment e.g. measuring equipment which uses laser beams to
register measurements to a high degree of accuracy, but for the
situation I was conducting the experiment this would have been
impractical.

Collecting more results will always improve the accuracy of the
experiment; it would also help more with minimising the affect odd
results had on my averages and subsequent graph. As to the odd results
that occurred, I am not sure what caused them, as there are a number
of small factors that could have affected the drop. The fact that the
height of the setsquare was judged by eye decreases the accuracy of
the measurements taken.

I believe that the experiment I conducted could be used to predict the
outcome of a 500m radius asteroid hitting central Australia at 4000m/s
with some degree of accuracy.
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