Cratered Moon Ornaments

We already made one set of holiday ornaments that light up using LEDs, this is another fun holiday ornament that you can make with your kids that blends science with astronomy and art. All you need for this project is air dry clay and some playgroud rocks, so it is pretty easy to get started. Bonus if you happen to have circle cookie cutters on hand to make a round moon in the end, but you can also just use a glass for this part.

To start this project you just need to flatten out a ball of clay, although you can also make a spherical cratered moon if you are up to it. Just be careful to dry your moon slowly (ie not in the oven) if you go this route as the spheres can often crack. Don’t worry if your moon isn’t a perfect circle at the moment, at the end of the project we will use circular cookie cutters or glasses to get a nice finished shape on the circular moons.

Your rocks are space asteroids or metoerites, which means you’ll need to fling them into your clay to make craters. Experiment with what happens with large slow rocks or small fast rocks. What about if the rocks glance it at an angle instead of falling straight down? There is tons of play in this science activity to experiment with all different types of metoerites hitting the moon.

Once you are finished just put your moon out to dry overnight, or in an oven at low heat for about 20 minutes. Once the moons are dry you can decide to paint and glitterify them or hot glue string to the backs to hang them for the holidays!

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How did the moon get it’s craters? Are all lunar craters the same?

Why does the moon have so many craters?
Unlike on Earth, the moon doesn’t have weather or a changing geologic landscape (ie, tectonic plates). The weather on Earth can slowly fill in craters, while the tectonic plates and move them around and shift land to fill them in. Without these properties the moon has little means to make craters get smaller over time. Because of that, the moon is filled with craters upon craters upon craters.

Did you say craters inside of craters?
Yep! Since the landscape on the moon doesn’t change over time meteorites can hit inside of current craters. In fact, one of the ways that scientists can determine how old a large crater is, is to count the number of smaller craters that lie within it!

How are the moon’s craters formed?
When asteroids or meteorites are wizzing through space they can’t navigate. That means if there is something in their way they will crash right into it. This is what happens with the moon and creates thousands of craters along it’s surface.

How big and deep are the moons craters?
The size and depth of lunar craters depends on the size and speed of an impacting asteroid. Some of the largest craters on the moon measure more than 50 miles wide and can get nearly 3 miles deep!

Why are there two colors to the moon?
The dual gray tone of the moon is only on the face that we see. The dark side of the moon is all the lighter gray we see. However, there are dark spots on the face of the moon we can see, these spots make the well known image of the man on the moon. So why is there light and dark gray on our side of the moon but only light gray on the other side? The moon’s crust has varying thicknesses, and is much thinner on the side of the moon that we can see. Many millions of years ago large impacts on the moon were so energetic that they burst through the thinner crust creating an eruption of volcanic lava that spread inside the craters and cooled into a darker gray!

Learn more about the moon and it’s craters here!

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