Earth’s Bulls-Eye, the Eye of Africa, Landmark for Astronauts (14 PICS)

The Richat Structure, a prominent circular feature in the Sahara desert of Mauritania near Ouadane

This prominent circular feature, known as the Richat Structure, in the Sahara desert of Mauritania is often noted by astronauts because it forms a conspicuous 50-kilometer-wide (30-mile-wide) bull’s-eye on the otherwise rather featureless expanse of the desert. Initially mistaken for a possible impact crater, it is now known to be an eroded circular anticline (structural dome) of layered sedimentary rocks. Photo #1 by NASA/JPL/NIMA

Richat Structure, Mauritania from Landsat 7

NASA explained, “The Richat Structure in the Sahara Desert of Mauritania is easily visible from space because it is nearly 50 kilometers across. Once thought to be an impact crater, the Richat Structure’s flat middle and lack of shock-altered rock indicates otherwise. The possibility that the Richat Structure was formed by a volcanic eruption also seems improbable because of the lack of a dome of igneous or volcanic rock. Rather, the layered sedimentary rock of the Richat structure is now thought by many to have been caused by uplifted rock sculpted by erosion. The above image was captured last year by the orbiting Landsat 7 satellite. Why the Richat Structure is nearly circular remains a mystery. Photo #2 by Landsat 7, USGS, NASA

NASA wrote, “This prominent circular feature in the Sahara desert of Mauritania has attracted attention since the earliest space missions because it forms a conspicuous bull’s-eye in the otherwise rather featureless expanse of the desert. Described by some as looking like an outsized ammonite in the desert, the structure [which has a diameter of almost 50 kilometers (30 miles)] has become a landmark for shuttle crews. Initially interpreted as a meteorite impact structure because of its high degree of circularity, it is now thought to be merely a symmetrical uplift (circular anticline) that has been laid bare by erosion.” Photo #3 by NASA/GSFC/MITI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

Mauritania Sahara Africa Bulls-eye

Mauritania – Sahara Desert in Africa – the Earth’s Bulls-eye Photo #4 by Lucio Andreetto

Need 3D glasses Richat Structure, Mauritania, Anaglyph, Landsat Image

Do you have 3D glasses handy? You need 3D glasses to really appreciate this Anaglyph Landsat Image shot of Richat Structure, Mauritania. Photo #5 by NASA/JPL/NIMA

ISS and Richat Dome, Mauritania

NASA described, “To the right of the International Space Station, the circular feature in the Mauritanian desert is Richat dome. The 24-mile- (39-km)-wide structure was formed by intrusion of molten rock at depth, which domed the overlying rock layers upward. Rock layers of differing compositions weather away at different rates, so that concentric ridges have developed within the structure.ISS and Richat Dome, Mauritania. Photo #6 by the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center.

Anticline Richat Structure, Oudane, Mauritania

There are some people who try to attribute the Richat Structure in Oudane, Mauritania, as being lasered into the Earth by aliens. Photo #7 by Johnnie Shannon

MAP-richat Bullseye

The Eye of Africa as seen from Google maps – starting out far and moving closer to the Richat Structure, Oudane, Mauritania. Photo #8 by Google Maps

Richat MAP-Eye of Africa

From Google maps, drawing closer to the Eye of Africa. Photo #9 by Google Maps

Eye of Africa

Zooming in closer to observe the Earth’s bulls-eye – Richat Structure, Oudane, Mauritania. Photo #10 by Google Maps

Richat Structure, Oudane, Mauritania

Geologically, this anticline is a fold in the Earth, rock layers exposed by hot desert winds. The oldest rock beds at at its center core, with younger rocks in the outward circular form. Photo #11 by Google Maps

Richat Structure

The rings that form the Earth’s bulls-eye, the Richat Structure, are made of 200 – 500 million-years-old Paleozoic quartzite. Photo #12 by Google Maps

Earth's Richat Structure

Not being an astronaut and all, I had no idea that the Earth had a bulls-eye or that Africa had an eye in the desert that can be seen from space. Photo #13 by STS-41G Crew, Space Shuttle Challenger, NASA

Richat Structure - Eye of Africa

Whether you prefer the term Richat Structure, Earth’s bulls-eye, or Eye of Africa, it’s interesting and it looks pretty cool from above the Sahara Desert. Photo #14 by Viva NOLA


24 thoughts on “Earth’s Bulls-Eye, the Eye of Africa, Landmark for Astronauts (14 PICS)

  1. Geri bildirim: Το Μάτι της Αφρικής « karakaksa Blog

  2. I have a suggestion. It looks like a hole that could have been opened up when God flooded the Earth. “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.” -Genesis 7:11

    Later God plugged the holes: “The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained” – Genesis 8:2

    The article says the circle is the result of an upheaval (from underneath) not concave like the impact from a meteor. Just my thoughts.

  3. Geri bildirim: Mauritania: Earth’s Bulls-Eye « The Moor Next Door

  4. There can be no question that it is a standing shock wave. It is well known that it is not a result of direct impact. I have a theory that I have not seen posted elsewhere.

    I think it is a shockwave as a result of a large object impact at the antipode of this location. The current antipode to the Richat Structure is East of the Coral Sea. Tectonic plate movements may have shifted the actual impact. This makes the most sense to me. The structure is simply too symmetrical and undulating to be anything BUT a shockwave. If this is correct, it would have formed very rapidly and would have been incredible to witness.

    • I’m by no means an expert…but If it is the result of erosion, where are the “dome” sediments? Hard to believe that they all blew away and were subsequently partially replaced by sand. If the rocks were not significantly metamorphosed by the presumed heat and pressure of a bolide impact…then maybe the site was under water (i.e., Atlantic) at the time of impact. (Is there any evidence in sediments to support this idea?) The thought being that water would “cushion” the blow and dissipate heat.

      Not buying the antipodal explaination…the earth is not that perfect of a sphere to produce such a “clean” and relatively small crater.

      • I only posted this as a theory. I cannot think of any other mechanism that would create the symmetry of undulating concentric rings. The shock pattern does not require that Earth be ‘perfectly’ symmetric. For a very, very crude example of energy dissipation in a semi-spherical object, go watch youtube (search water balloon thrown at face). Notice the pattern. Granted this example is not meant to prove anything other than how envergy travels in a semi-spherical mass. Yes, the Earth is not isotropic, but a simulation could be performed (nice graduate thesis).

        It would be nice to have a CFD model to test. Analogous to our discovery of how Type 1A supernova occur.

        The default geologic dome theory just doesn’t seem to fit at all. Although one can see erosion effects (dendritic drainage), erosion doesn’t happen with undulating annular symmetry to my knowledge.

        Then again, I’m not an expert either (I’m Elec Engineer).

  5. Geri bildirim: aaceetv

  6. Geri bildirim: Mysterious geologic structure seen from space -

  7. Marrakech (Morocco) in baltic languages mins Eye of Earth Mother- MARA AKIS. I think people know this place in Mauritania from archaic times.

  8. I believe it was indeed an impact from space. The velocity at impact was at a snails pace by todays meteors. The area may well have been submerged at the time. Much older than we imagine. It was moltened and soft. It did not vaporize but spread in the configuration of what looks like the eye’s well or socket. Some of it folded over and created the ridge on impact due to the angle of travel.

  9. I recently learned that the Sahara Desert in Africa was once lavish and tropical. Due to the weather patterns changing. The northern area of Africa was not always a desert. About every 2,000 years this could change. They have found mass quantities of water under the Sahara and are currently pumping the water out. Eventually it will run out but by then, who knows, the weather pattern may change again. If this happens in the Sahara over and over, going from one extreme to the next, I can only imagine how that could have formed the eye. I wonder if there are mass amnounts of water under that area. That is my best guess in layman’s terms.

  10. Geri bildirim: | Stay creative!

  11. If it was not so costly, I would love to fly over the Earth and see this part of Africa for myself. I have been to Africa, but not to view the Richat structure.

  12. I saw this from a private jet aircraft on a flight from Canary Islands to Lagos in 1981. I guessed a meteor crater and thought I should have heard of this crater but had not. Years later I remembered this observation and did a google search for “crater west africa” and found this. I recognized the very circular shape immediately. I was flying a 35000 ft and realized it was 10’s of miles across.

    I like the theory of shock wave impact from meteor strike on opposite side of earth, but have no expertise to comment.

    • This is in reference to the “Eye of the Sahara”: When I was in the US Air Force (1970-1990), I was part of a C130 flight crew the first 8 years of my career. I saw many “unusual” sights and strange phenomenon” from the air. At that time, we were given to not discuss any strange sightings with anyone. During a flight is support of the Sep 1974 “King Grain Operation” (Google) to Africa from the Canary Islands, we sighted a very unusual sight. WE were flying between 15K and 20K feet. C130’s are low flying aircraft. We say a rock formation that appeared to be 2 circles of rock formation out in the middle of nowhere. Our navigator checked the map and found nothing on the map. We did not know nor had any idea on what it might have been. For the past 38 years, I had been wondering what it was we flew over. I had been searching for all these years. Then our new technology “Google” came. I just saw this “Eye of the Sahara” that the space lab had found during one of their fly over. We saw this rock formation many years before this finding came out. I feel better that we were not the only one that had seen this but we are still wondering what it is that caused this. There is one more sighting that I am still wondering about and will post when I ever I do find out what that other sighting is. Many mysteries of our earth.

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