Newton's Laws of Motion and Gravity Applied to Meteorites

The Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites

Educator's Guide: Activity

Newton's Laws of Motion and Gravity Applied to Meteorites - For Physical Science Students

Overview: Newton's laws of motion and law of gravity changed our understanding of the universe. These laws are demonstrable in what students have learned while studying meteorites.

Resource Use 
The activity Newton's Laws of Motion and Gravity Applied to Meteorites was designed to help students identify examples of Newton's laws in the processes that exist in our dynamic solar system.

Have students work in pairs or in small groups. Present Newton's laws of motion and his law of gravity (below) to students. Ask them to recall what they've learned about the creation of the solar system; and what happens when a meteorite enters the Earth's atmosphere.

Newton's Laws of Motion: 

  1. An object in motion tends to stay in motion, and an object at rest tends to stay at rest, unless the object is acted upon by an outside force.
  2. A change in velocity is produced when a force acts on a mass. The greater the mass (of the object being accelerated) the greater the amount of force needed to accelerate the object. This law can be expressed by the equation: F (force) = ma (mass x accleration).
  3. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Newton's Law of Gravity:

Each body in the universe attracts each other body.

Drawing upon what students have learned studying meteorites, have them cite examples of each of the laws. For example, the accretion of small particles in the early solar nebula is an example of Newton's Law of Gravity - each body in the universe attracts each other body. When groups are done, have them present their findings to the class.

As an extension to this activity, have students contemplate how the first and third laws of motion relate to space ships traveling through space. 

  1. Space is a vacuum, so jet engines cannot suck in air and a jet propeller cannot turn and move a space ship. How do space ships propel themselves?
  2. Once space ships are moving they will stay in motion. Why is this so?