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One of the most cratered landscapes on Earth is part of the Nevada desert called Yucca Flat. The craters are the remnants of decades of nuclear tests conducted by the U.S. government since early in the Cold War.

At the Nevada Test Site, located about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, 928 nuclear tests took place: 100 were atmospheric and the rest were underground. It’s those underground tests that made the craters—so they are technically not impact craters but subsidence craters.

The flat basin of the Nellis Air Force Gunnery and Bombing Range, which is also filled with arid grasses, forbs, and shrubs, provided security and secrecy for these tests.


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Nov. 17, 1982, Landsat 4 (path/row 40/34) — Yucca Flat, Nevada, USA
Dec. 19, 2020, Landsat 8 (path/row 40/34) — Yucca Flat, Nevada, USA


Additional story information


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