FLAGSTAFF, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- Meteor Crater is a can't-miss landmark for folks headed up to the Flagstaff area.

[VIDEO: How Meteor Crater came to be]

It's been called "the world's best-preserved meteorite impact site on Earth."

So what created this massive crater?

It's spectacular result of a collision 50,000 years ago, when an asteroid plunged through the Earth’s atmosphere and crashed into the land, just east of what is now Flagstaff. The crater was formed in an instant.

Originally, Meteor Crater was almost 700 feet deep. But now, mainly due to wind erosion, it's 550 feet deep.

Meteor Crater measures 3,900 feet across. By comparison with craters found elsewhere, it's considered small. Yet it was formed in an explosion estimated to be equal to 10 million tons of TNT.

Through the years, meteor crater has served as a training ground for NASA researchers. In fact, every astronaut who landed on the moon trained at Meteor Crater, according to the Crater's Facebook page.

And all year long, scientists come from all over the world to study the crater.

In order to preserve the site, there is no hiking of the crater rim or interior allowed. However there is a guided hike offered when weather permits.

The Meteor Crater Visitor Center is located on the rim of the Crater. The building features an 80-seat theater, indoor crater viewing area, Crater trail access, an interactive discovery center, an artifact and exhibit area, a gift store and a food service area.

You can find Meteor Crater off of Interstate 40 in northern Arizona. Take Exit 233 toward Winslow.

More information is available online and on Facebook.

 


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