While looking at Area 51 and Papoose Lake on Google Maps last week, I saw not far away, a field of what looked like hundreds of meteorite impact craters. The confined area looked familiar – it looked like so many images of the Moon and other planets riddled with craters that we’ve all seen since we were kids.
Zooming in, I understood that these craters were manmade, during that period of nuclear testing in the Cold War. What we learn in this video, is that the area I noticed was a purposeful recreation of a cratered environment like that of the Moon’s, made specifically for the NASA astronauts!
During these mid-century tests, scientists discovered that nuclear explosions and bolide impacts caused almost the exact same geological effects, such that you’ll find the same shocked quartz at the crater bottoms and the inverted stratigraphy at the rims at both the 50,000-year old Meteor Crater in Arizona as you will in at the 1962 Sedan Crater in Nevada – and on the Moon.
This is a fun little clip about the science of craters by YouTube rockstar, Veritasium, with on-location scenes in Nevada, historic file footage and images of Moon dust captured from his microscope.