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What are Asteroids?

written by: Kathy Foust•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 5/31/2009

Exploring what asteroids are is a lot more interesting when you can see the impact that they have directly on you. This is the idea behind this asteroid lesson plan using the Torino Scale.

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    Defining Asteroids

    Teachers, before moving on to the rest of this Asteroid Lesson Plan, be sure that your Physical Science Students understand the concept of small solar bodies. Once students understand what small solar bodies are, they are on their way to understanding asteroids and the other small solar bodies mentioned in this series.

    Explain to students that asteroids are sometimes referred to as minor planets that are found in numerous quantities in the asteroid belt that lingers between Mars and Jupiter. Also explain that asteroids also have irregular shapes that vary from asteroid to asteroid. Tell students that yes, asteroids are capable of coming into contact with Earth and for this reason the Torino scale was created.

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    Using the Torino Scale

    Show students a diagram of the Torino scale. If you don't have a copy of one, there is probably one in their Science book or may be easily found online. Explain to students how the Torino Scale is used, then ask the students to use the Torino Scale to rate the asteroids in the scenarios below.

    • An asteroid is seen to be lingering very close to Mars, but will not come within Earth's Atmosphere. Rate this Asteroid.
    • An asteroid is heading towards Earth on a course that indicates it will strike and destroy Hawaii. Rate this asteroid.
    • An asteroid is heading towards Earth that will create devastation in several countries, but will not completely destroy the Earth. Rate this asteroid.
    • An asteroid that is known as a "global killer" would be rated as what on the Torino Scale?
    • If an asteroid collides with and destroys and entire continent, what type of asteroid would this be rated as on the Torino Scale?

    Once your students complete this activity and demonstrate that they understand what an asteroid is and how the Torino Scale is used, ask students to complete the Torino Scale worksheet included in this Asteroid Lesson Plan.

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    Torino Scale Worksheet

    Torino Scale Worksheet
Additional Info
Additional Info