On Your Next Trip to Space, Look Out for the Eye of the Sahara

Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
May 14 2014 11:43 AM

The Richat Structure: Stare into the Eye of the Sahara

Atlas Obscura on Slate is a blog about the world's hidden wonders. Like us on Facebook, Tumblr, or follow us on Twitter @atlasobscura.

The next time you're flying over Mauritania — or passing above Africa aboard the International Space Station — have a glance out the window and see if you can spot the Richat Structure. It shouldn't be too difficult: the thing is 30 miles wide.

Also known as the Eye of the Sahara, the Richat Structure is thought to be a heavily eroded circular symmetrical uplift — that is, a dome-shaped section of rock that rose up from the earth's surface. (If you looked at the Richat bull's-eye and thought, 'That there is an impact crater from a meteorite,' don't feel sheepish. Many scientists believed the same thing when the Eye of the Sahara was first spotted from space in the mid-'60s.)

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This Landsat satellite image has been combined with an elevation model and colored to indicate topographical features. Bedrock is brown, sand is yellow, vegetation is green, and salty sediments are light blue.

Image: NASA/JPL/NIMA

Other structures best viewed from above:


View Richat Structure in a larger map

Ella Morton is a writer working on The Atlas Obscura, a book about global wonders, curiosities, and esoterica adapted from Atlas Obscura. Follow her on Twitter.

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