HomeHHMI's BioInteractiveCalculating Iridium Fallout From an Asteroid Impact

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Classroom Resource
Calculating Iridium Fallout From an Asteroid Impact

Summary

A worksheet in which students calculate how much iridium was released, and eventually deposited all over the Earth, by the impact of the asteroid that caused the K-T extinction.

Appropriate for: high school physics, chemistry, and earth science (all levels)

This lesson serves as an extension to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute short film The Day the Mesozoic Died. It challenges students to develop a reasoned estimate of the amount of iridium contained in an asteroid similar in size and composition to the one that struck Earth 66 million years ago, causing the K-T mass extinction. Several correction factors and assumptions are introduced to carry out these calculations.


Curriculum Connections:

NGSS (April 2013)
HS-ESS1-6, HS-ESS1.B, HS-ESS1.C, HS-ESS2.A, HS-PS1.B, HS-PS3.B 

Common Core (2010)
CCSS.Mathematics.MP.2, CCSS.Mathematics.MP.4, CCSS.Mathematics.HSN-Q.A.1, CCSS.Mathematics.HSA-CED.A.4, CCSS.Mathematics.HSA-SSE.A.1, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-12.1, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-12.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-12.8, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.9-12.1  


Supporting Materials (11)

Classroom Resource
A lesson in which students analyze graphs and data on pollen grains and fern spores to form a picture of the living landscape before and after the K-T mass extinction.
Classroom Resource
This hands-on activity requires students to “visit” different K-T boundary sites.
Short Film
The disappearance of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period posed one of the greatest, long-standing scientific mysteries. This three-act film tells the story of the extraordinary detective work that solved it. 
Interactive Video
Embedded quiz modules test students’ understanding as they watch the short film on the asteroid that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Classroom Resource
A lesson in which students calculate the mass, size, and kinetic energy of the K-T asteroid based on the total abundance of iridium in the K-T boundary layer.
Classroom Resource
A worksheet in which students write down the evidence that led to the discovery that an asteroid struck Earth about 66 million years ago, causing a mass extinction. 
Classroom Resource
A short article by Dr. Sean B. Carroll detailing the discoveries covered in the film The Day The Mesozoic Died.
Classroom Resource
A lesson in which students analyze the chemical data that led researchers to conclude that the K-T boundary layer contained an extraordinary concentration of iridium. 
Classroom Resource
A lesson in which students read a passage and answer questions about the information presented, testing their non-fiction reading comprehension.
Classroom Resource
A hands-on activity in which students see first-hand the difference in foraminifera fossils below and above the K-T boundary.
Film Guides
The following classroom-ready resources complement The Day the Mesozoic Died, which tells the story of the extraordinary detective work that led to the stunning discovery that an asteroid struck Earth 66 million years ago, triggering a mass extinction of animals, plants and even microorganisms.

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