Killer Asteroids Case Study

Education Services / L’équipe des services d’éducation
21 October 2015

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In this case study, students will analyze video and print resources to explore the characteristics and potential effects of near-space objects in our solar system on the Earth, use an online simulation to investigate the potential effects of an asteroid impact on Earth, and complete structured research to advocate a plan for how the world should deal with the threat of asteroids to the Earth in a mock United Nations Security Council debate.

Suggested Timing: 4-5 periods

Key Question

Should the world develop a defense system against asteroids?


There are more than 10,000 Near –Earth Objects, including asteroids and comets, whose orbits pass close to the Earth. While the chances of a large (>1km) asteroid or comet impacting the Earth are remote, the consequences of such an event would be terrible. For instance, the 10km asteroid that impacted in the Yucatan peninsula 66 million years ago is widely believed to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.


  • Subject Focus: Earth & Space Science, Social Sciences
  • 21st Century Skills Focus: Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication

Learning Goals

  • Understand the risks of an asteroid impact on Earth
  • Understand how scientists are studying asteroids
  • Practice forming arguments based on evidence and logic
  • Articulate an opinion through writing or another medium

Learning Activities

Students will grapple with authentic issues surrounding the potential effects of near-space objects on the Earth, in this case, asteroids.

Big Idea

Near-Earth objects such as asteroids present a remote but potentially catastrophic threat to life on Earth. Determining an appropriate response to this threat requires an understanding of the risks and the likelihood of an asteroid impact on Earth.

MINDS-ON: First Impressions

Students will become familiar with Inga’s case and some of the issues surrounding the threat of an asteroid impact using a Read-View-Listen video learning strategy.

Suggested Timing: 30 minutes

ACTION 1: What Is An Asteroid?

Students will read about objects orbiting the Sun and then sort images of Solar System objects according to their composition and characteristics. They will also choose and research a known asteroid in order to complete a mock briefing document about the asteroid for the UN Security Council.

Suggested Timing: 35 minutes plus time outside class

ACTION 2: Impact Earth!

Students will use the characteristics of a crater on Earth and then use an impact simulator (Impact Earth!) to explore different impact variables (e.g., size, velocity, angle, material, etc.).

Suggested Timing: 45 minutes

CONSOLIDATION: UN Security Council Debate

Students will participate in a mock United Nations Security Council debate on the issue of deploying a planetary defense system against asteroids.

Suggested Timing: 50-60 minutes

Education Services / L’équipe des services d’éducation

This content is provided through Let's Talk Science's Education Services team.

Ce contenu est fourni par l'équipe des services d'éducation de Parlons sciences.

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