Deep Impact Logo NASA Logo

DEEP IMPACT DINER
Snacks that teach the science of comets

Created for the Deep Impact Mission, A NASA Discovery Mission

Learn about comet facts while you eat!
Use these ideas in your concession stand as comet snacks. You can use these snacks as models to explore some of the facts and concepts about comet science. The choices below simulate the nucleus, coma and tail - the three parts of a comet.

The Fun Part: Have a performer as a scientist, astronaut, professor etc. in the eating area who asks people to defend their choice of ice cream "debris", ice cream "surface" or candy bar "interior". Depending on the personality of the performer, this can be entertaining and a lot can be learned while they enjoy their refreshments.


WHAT IS A COMET NUCLEUS MADE OF? - ICE CREAM IN A BAG
We know that comets are like dirty snow balls of rock, dirt, dust and ice, debris from the formation of the solar system, but what else is in there? The Deep Impact mission will make a deep crater and look inside to see the interior. The mission will also observe the ejecta bursting from the crater to learn even more.

Provide a portion of soft ice cream in a cup or baggie (the comet) and have the purchaser choose the edible "debris" they think they would find in a comet. You provide it on top of the ice cream. They mix it up by stirring the "debris" into the cup or squishing it inside the baggie. Eat with a spoon.

Crush all your ingredients but the coconut and gummy bears. Other ingredients can be used as long as they don't melt and disappear in the mixing of the ice cream.

Rock - peanuts Dirt - a black or dark brown cookie
Carbon dioxide ice - coconut flakes Possible early organics for life - gummy bears
Debris yet to be discovered when we visit a comet - peppermint or toffee bits.


WHAT IS THE SURFACE OF A COMET NUCLEUS LIKE? COMET ICE CREAM BALLS
The nucleus (center) of a comet has a dark surface we can't see through. From what is it made? The way the crater forms in the comet should tell the Deep Impact team whether the surface is soft, hard, crumbly, etc.

Make hard ice cream balls of any flavor and let people request the "surface" of their choice. You may want to roll the ice cream ball in each kind of "surface" to cover:

  • Is it a hard crust? - Use chocolate shell. (Hardens into a layer)
  • Is it a sludgy crust? - Use chocolate syrup
  • Is it powdery? - Use cocoa powder
  • Is it rough and thick? - Use broken cookies

Which kind of surface do you think we will find on a comet when we make a crater in it and why?


WHAT IS IT LIKE INSIDE A COMET NUCLEUS? COMET CANDY BARS
We don't know if a comet nucleus has an interior that is layered, or mixed, or if there is a core or a crust? The crater made by the Deep Impact mission should show the mission team whether there are layers beneath and what the mixture of the interior is like.

Offer a variety of candy bars that simulate what it might be like under the surface of a comet. The surface of a comet nucleus is black so chocolate covered bars are best. Buy these types and categorize them in the diner under these headings:

  • The inside is smooth and has no layers - A nougat candy bar
  • The inside has a series of layers that are different - A candy bar with 3 or more layers
  • The inside is all the same but is full of rock and dirt - A candy bar with peanuts or some other kind of crunchy material but no layers
  • The interior is rocky with a core that is smooth - A candy bar with peanuts and caramel near the top and a smooth center
  • The inside is the same as the surface - A chocolate bar with nothing added
  • The inside is very fragile - A candy bar with a honeycomb or airy center
  • The inside is dense and hard - A candy bar with a harder center


WHAT IS COMET COMA LIKE? - COMA COTTON CANDY
When a comet nucleus nears the Sun, the surface heats and ice, gas and dust burst into the vacuum of space. The ice, gas and dust immediately surrounding the comet are referred to as the "coma" of a comet. The dust in the coma falls behind and forms the long tail that follows the comet. The Deep Impact observing flyby spacecraft will move through the coma until it can clearly see the crater made during impact.

Sell cotton candy simulating comet coma. If some of it can trail away from the center, it will look like the tail that is the third part of a comet.


WHAT MAKES THE COMA AND TAIL? - COMA CREAM SODA
For demonstration purposes only. Comets have carbon dioxide ice, the same thing we use to keep ice cream or other items cold. The carbon dioxide ice turns to gas, it becomes part of the coma and tail we see when we look at a bright shiny comet in space.

Display a clear container with warm punch mixture and dry ice. Do not serve from this mixture - use it as display only. The punch will appear to "smoke" from the carbon dioxide and will simulate the outgassing a comet does when it is warmed by the Sun. In a different container, serve punch called "Coma Cream Soda".

Questions? Contact: Maura.Rountree-Brown@jpl.nasa.gov