AiS Challenge Team Interim Report


Team Number: 13

School Name: Albuquerque Academy

Area of Science: Environmental Science

Project Title: Point of Impact



Problem Description

People seem to be fascinated by meteorite impacts. Meteorites have been the subject of many movies, books, and research papers, from small meteors that burn up in the atmosphere and are called “shooting stars” to large ones that could conceivably destroy all forms of life on Earth, as the case may have been with the dinosaurs. Our problem this year is to model meteorite impacts and observe, especially, the effect of the impacts on local temperature and climate. How wide an area is affected by the temperature change? How long will it take for the temperature to return to normal, if ever? Will the changes make it colder or warmer? These are all questions we seek to answer by pursuing this project.

Current Progress

This year's work so far has included attempting to synthesize a mathematical model for the amount of energy released by an asteroid as it impacts the Earth.  This energy conversion can be explained by the amount of momentum the asteroid has as it impacts the Earth. Earth is the only planet we are currently planning on running this program on, so gravity is a constant (as the asteroid will be
launched from just above the Earth's stratosphere). The next obstacle we are attempting to tackle is how to accurately represent the spread of heat.  To give it a physical appearance we feel that modeling the heat as a cloud will perhaps be the best method for representing heat spread.  The heat will eventually raise the average on the Earth by several degrees (depending on the size of the asteroid), but then be dissipated into space, as the Earth cools back to normal temperatures. 

For the graphics portion of our project, we are using the three-dimensional graphics editor POV-RAY, also known as the Persistence of Vision Raytracer, a freely downloadable ray tracing program. We have written a script for POV-RAY which reads a file containing temperature values and places the values in a 180 by 360 matrix. The program then executes a while loop which creates a series of 64800 triangles which form a 180 by 360 grid. We used triangles because they are simpler to create in POV-RAY and we can use two right triangles to form a square which forms one unit of the grid. The program then converts the temperature values into a red-green-blue color vector and assigns each grid unit a color based on its temperature. As of now, the colors are grayscale, which makes the map difficult to read and get information from, because the variations between shades of gray are difficult to read. In the future we hope to implement color, which will make distinctions between different colors more apparent and easy to read.

We are also currently working on a particle system in POV-RAY which would allow us to model water, dust, smoke, and fire effects in our program. This is fairly complicated because it involves reading large amounts of information from various files and manipulating the information with regard to time. Presently we are capable of creating a one-particle system which moves with time according to initial position and velocity vectors which are passed to the program as parameters.

Expected Results

We expect that we will be able to successfully model with reasonable accuracy the global temperature changes and movement of heat effected by a meteoric impact, whether on land or on water. Although we have not been able to come up with an equation to explain the loss of mass the asteroid incurs as it passes through the Earth's atmosphere, we hope to add it to the mathematical model soon.

In terms of our graphics, we expect that we will be able to create a map which will depict relative temperature globally and animate the map so that changes over time will be visible. POV-RAY also has animation capabilities, and we hope to make use of these in order to be able to show temperature variations over time, which would give us a better idea of the temperature variations caused by meteorite impacts over extended periods of time and whether or not they have lasting effects on global climate. We hope to eventually implement gravity and acceleration, as well as user-defined textures, sizes, and possibly non-spherical particles in our particle system.



Team Members

Team Mail

Sponsoring Teacher

Project Mentors