Meteorites and Impact Craters

Initial Publication Date: May 30, 2013


A learning module for incorporation in to Earth science courses that exposes students to the formation of impact craters and what differentiates a meteorite from other rocks on Earth.

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Learning Goals

Students will be able to:
  1. Practice identifying meteorites vs. Earth rock specimens.
  2. Attempt crater counting and accurately age-date terrain on Mars using JMARS software.

Context for Use

Prior exposure to rock & mineral classification is advisable, although not necessary to be successful in these exercises. In addition discuss relative and absolute dating techniques on Earth prior to these activities.

Description and Teaching Materials

Compiled In-Class Activities and Homework

In-Class Activity


Teaching Notes and Tips

  1. It will take at least an hour of prep time to become familiar with the crater count material in order to teach the crater counting method. It is recommended that during the class meeting when you assign Homework 1 that you provide a quick tutorial of crater counting and how to use the tools in JMARS
  2. For In-Class Activity 1 you may provide samples of the required rocks/meteorites or use the images provided in the Image File.


Methods of assessment are within each individual In-Class Activity and Homework.

References and Resources

  1. Image File: Meteorites and Impact Craters (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 6.8MB Nov12 13)
  2. Criteria to identify a meteorite via NASA/DAWN mission interactive:
  3. Background on determining the age of surfaces on Mars:
  4. JMARS crater counting tutorial: