Killer Asteroids, Comets, and Impact Craters
Killer asteroids, comets and their collisions with Earth had destructive effects on planets, fauna and flora. Impact cratering is a fundamental geologic process that has affected all bodies within the Solar System, including Earth, our Moon, and Mars. And it can happen again! But how likely is it? And what would happen if Earth is hit again by a large asteroid or comet? In this seminar, we will introduce key concepts from geology and planetary sciences and use them to understand the processes and effects that impacts have on planets, including Earth. We will examine the scientific underpinnings of many popular examples of catastrophic impact threats in movies (e.g., Armageddon, Deep Impact). Using hands-on activities, such as creating our own impacts and ejecta blankets with sand, and modeling the impact effect between Earth and a large asteroid, we will learn how to distinguish between different types of impact craters, and how impact craters can help us learn about the age of the planets, and consider what would happen to Earth if a large asteroid hit us again. This seminar will include a trip to the American Museum of Natural History to see left over pieces of real space rocks that hit Earth. This course is appropriate for non-science majors; the only requirements are curiosity and a willingness to get your hands dirty.