Impact Processes at Meteor Crater (Advanced)

Kéyah Math Project development team: Nancy Zumoff, Christopher Schaufele, Steven Semken, Tracy Perkins, Lynn Onken, Philippe Laval, David Gonzales, and Andrew Becenti (deceased).
Kéyah Math Project directed by Steven Semken , Arizona State University; and Christopher Schaufele and Nancy Zumoff, Professors of Mathematics, Emeritus.
Archived at Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration.


This is a more mathematically advanced version of the Impact Processes activity that introduces students to impact geology in a study of Meteor Crater in northern Arizona. Students use a set of formulas from physics and power regression on real data to determine the energy released on impact and the size of the impactor that formed the crater.

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Learning Goals

  • Use formulas from physics to find the size of the meteorite that formed Meteor Crater in Arizona:
  • Derive a formula relating kinetic energy and diameter of the crater using regression and calculate the energy released on impact;
  • Use the formula relating kinetic energy and mass to determine the mass of the meteorite;
  • Use the formula relating mass, volume, and density to find the volume of the meteorite;
  • Use the formula relating spherical volume to radius to find the diameter of the meteorite.

    Mathematical Skills
  • Apply algebra.
  • Solve power and linear equations.
  • Perform linear regression on data.
  • Solve equations involving kinetic energy, mass, and volume.
  • Context for Use

    This activity consists of a set of quantitative problem-solving exercises that can be used as an in-class activity or an assignment in any course with a unit on impact processes or impact events, such as:
  • Physical geology or physical geography
  • Historical geology or Earth history
  • Environmental geology, natural hazards, natural disasters
  • Earth system science or Earth and space science
  • Introductory astronomy
  • Description and Teaching Materials

    Teaching Notes and Tips

    An Instructor's Guide to all Kéyah Math activities is available online from the Instructor Resources page on the Kéyah Math website.


    Students record their work and answers in a word-processor document or a notebook, which can be submitted to the instructor for assessment. Solutions to these problems are available online from the Instructor Resources page on the Kéyah Math website.

    References and Resources