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Asteroid Physics Problems

1. As mentioned before, our asteroid is in the shape of a sphere and has a mass of 1000 kilograms. Determine the density (in grams per cubic centimeter) of this asteroid if its diameter is known to be 1.0 meters. Useful information: 1 kg = 1000 g, 1 m = 100 cm, volume of sphere = 4/3 p r3. Remember that the radius of a sphere is equal to half its diameter! Show all of your work.

2. How does your calculated density (in grams per cubic centimeter) compare to the density of water? Would you expect this asteroid to float or sink in water based on your calculations?

3. One side of our asteroid is constantly illuminated by the Sun while the other side remains in the dark. Do you expect there to be a temperature difference between the light and dark sides? Explain why or why not. If the two sides are at different temperatures, how might heat transfer from one side to the other? Note that our asteroid does not have enough gravity to hold an atmosphere.

4. Occasionally an asteroid will break into fragments due to a collision. These fragments can leave the asteroid belt and some even make their way to Earth. Upon entering the Earth's atmosphere, a fragment is heated to high temperature by frictional forces. What would happen to any water-ice contained within a fragment? Is this type of change considered a chemical change or a physical change? Is this an endothermic or exothermic change? Explain.

5. Asteroids are mainly composed of metals like iron and nonmetals like carbon. Briefly explain the differences between metals and nonmetals based on your knowledge of the periodic table.

6. If the asteroid fragment contains carbon, it may burn when entering the Earth's atmosphere. What is the most likely compound to result from this process? Which type of chemical bond would result from this process? Of the two broad classes of chemical reactions mentioned in this course, which type would this be? Be sure to fully explain all of your answers.

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Solution Preview

1) Density

Radius = 1/2 diameter
Density = Mass / Volume = 1000kg / (4/3 x pi x 0.5^3)
Density = 1910.828 kg/m^3

Converting to g/cm^3 for next question:

1910828 g/m^3
1 m^3 = 100cm x 100cm x 100cm = 1000000 cm^3 (remember that cubed means there are 3 dimensions, so I converted all 3 dimensions)
1.91 g/cm^3

2) Water's density = 1.0 g/cm^3
Since the asteroid is denser than water, it will sink.

Only when a substance is lighter than the medium it exists in will it float/rise to the top. It will stop rising and stay at a certain level when it encounters another medium that is less dense than it. This is why ice cubes, which are less dense than liquid water, will float ...

Solution Summary

Asteroid physics problems are examined. The density for float or sink are determined.