Fireball Investigation Cart

Fireball Investigation Cart - 1 of 3
Fireball Investigation Cart
Brief Summary
This cool cart engages visitors in discovering about fireballs and the All Sky Program which
tracks them. There is a strong media component to this cart, in addition to props, collections
objects, and a demo.
Equipment Required
Fireball Investigation Cart
Laptop computer cart
Media components (on Galaxy Guide Portal under Exhibit Resources/Fireball
Investigation Cart, and “Recent Fireballs” CD)
Fireball Investigation Cart flashlight
Media Screen (drop-down screen in Science Stunt area, Galaxy Stage screen, or
Mission Board)
Laminated images:
1. “What to Do”
2. compass
Main Teaching Points
Fireballs are caused when chunks of rock from space (meteoroids) enter the Earth’s
atmosphere and heat up. Sometimes pieces of these meteoroids make it to the
Earth’s surface and are then called meteorites.
We have a multipronged, extensive research program here at the museum to track
these fireballs and look for the resulting meteorites
Watching the skies for fireballs, meteors, and meteor showers is accessible to anyone
with an interest in looking up!
Set Up
Bring the Fireball Cart and computer cart over to the chosen area or media screen. If
using a media screen, plug in computer cart and set up microphone.
Bring up chosen media component or components (web site, PowerPoint presentation,
Starry Night Pro presets, etc.)
See if the meteorite cart is also out, and which Museum Galaxy Guide is running it, so
that you can direct people over there if they are interested in finding out more about
Engage visitors!
Fireball Investigation Cart - 2 of 3
Suggested Ways to Present Demo
Try This:
 Go to the Portal, and click on Exhibit Resources/Fireball Cart and bring up the
Peekskill meteorite video.
 Engage visitors by telling them about the video.
 Open the “DMNS Research” PowerPoint, and use it and the All Sky Camera model
and meteorite to show visitors how we conduct fireball and meteorite research here at
the museum.
 Then, depending on visitor interest or questions, try one of the following:
 Offer to send a website home to them, such as the Cloudbait website, or the meteor
shower animated tutorial.
 Ask the visitors if they are interested in finding out how they can be part of the DMNS
research if they see a fireball. If they answer yes, then try the demo (see below).
The Demo – “What to Do if You See a Fireball”
1. Bring out the laminated “What to Do” sheet and the laminated compass. Explain the
steps listed on the “What to Do” sheet.
2. Tell them you’re going to give them some practice in how to do this.
3. Explain that columns, exhibits, and screens, etc. will be their “landmarks,” and that
they can consider the horizon to be where the floor meets the wall, or straight out in
front of them. Begin by shining the flashlight on a stationary point on a column. Go
through how to measure its height, and pick a landmark (in this case, the column).
4. Explain that you will flash a light across the ceiling, and that they need to describe the
starting and ending points, etc..
5. Flash the flashlight across the ceiling (not too fast!), using the switch (or your hand
over the top) to turn it on at the start and off at the end, so that there is a clear and
easy start and finish for your audience. Start high, and end lower, say, part way down
a column.
6. Do the flashlight step again until you think the visitors have got it (it’s OK that they
wouldn’t get a second chance in reality – this is good practice!).
7. Talk through the points they would have needed to record (starting and ending points,
time, etc..).
8. Go to and tell visitors that this is where they would report it. Let
them know that they can just submit whatever information they have not to worry if
they only have partial information.
Operating Tips
The advantage of using the media screens is that, even when you are talking to only one or
two people, other people will see the screen and become interested. These folks often want
to just “eavesdrop” on your discussions with other visitors to see if they want to stop to hear
more about it. Using the microphone makes this even easier for those visitors to “listen from
the fringes” before getting fully involved. In other words, you don’t need to be in big
performance mode for the drop down screen and microphone to give you an advantage.
Fireball Investigation Cart - 3 of 3
Questions and Answers
I have a rock at home that I think is a meteorite. How can I find out for sure?
You can bring it into the museum to have it identified. Bring it to the Information Desk at the
front of the museum (this can take a few weeks – ask at the Information Desk to find out
more). Alternatively, you call the geology department at (303) 370-6445 (or call the main
Museum number and ask to be put through to the geology department).
I’m a teacher who is interested in finding out more about the All Sky Project. What do I
Email Chris Peterson at [email protected] .
What is the difference between the meteors we see in a meteor shower and those we
see singly?
Meteor showers are caused by sand-sized particles that are left behind from a comet and
spread out along the comet’s orbit around the sun. When the Earth passes through that orbit,
we “run into” all those particles, and we get a meteor shower. Go to Understanding Meteor
Showers/ The single meteors that we see at night are caused by
particles, or METEOROIDS, that may have originated from a comet, asteroid, or any of the
leftover material from the early solar system. These particles can range in size from dust
sized to fist-sized. Larger meteoroids cause fireballs, and some of the material might make it
to the ground to be collected as a meteorite. Go to Related Websites/Meteors–Great Kid
Page. Also, you can use the “About Fireballs” PowerPoint or the “Understanding Meteors –
Animated Tutorial” website.
Background materials (websites, videos, articles, links)
Report a fireball sighting -
Meteor Crater! -
American Meteor Society -
Meteors – Great Kid Page -
Understanding Meteors (Movie Tutorial) -
Peekskill Meteorite:
 - The car on tour
 - NASA info and student activity sheet
 - American Museum of Natural History
 - newspaper articles about the meteorite (note – accuracy may vary!)