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.)

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.


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.


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Global Marches Demand Action on Climate Change


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.