Laboratory activities
Matières: Physics, astronomy, chemistry
Âge: 14-18 years
Duration: 20 minutes to 1 hour


Ingredients for life?

Comets are, so to speak, time capsules containing information about the early history of the Solar System. To understand what comets are, where they come from and what influence they have had on the Earth’s evolution, we need to know what materials they are made of. The teacher’s demonstration, the practical activity to be carried out by the students and the ensuing discussion provide an overview of the chemical elements that make up comets.
A complementary discussion and activity about impacts on the Earth and the kinetic energy calculations involved are also included.
In this activity, teachers and students simulate a comet nucleus in the classroom. The ingredients used faithfully reproduce the materials found in an authentic comet nucleus, as can be discovered by means of spectroscopy combined with the results of space probe flybys of various comets.

Educational links

– Kinetic energy
– Energy conservation
– Phase changes
– Impact processes
– Orbits (in the Solar System)

– Location and nature of asteroids and comets
– Identify the elements of a comet (nucleus, hair, dust and ion tails)
– Consequences of collisions in the Solar System
– Link between comets, the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud
– Space probes studying solar system bodies

– Phase changes

Classroom demonstration video