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Believe it or not, it's not a meteor's impact crater!

EarthViews is a continuing series in which we share a USGS Image of the Week featuring the USGS/NASA Landsat program. From the artistry of Earth imagery to natural and human-caused land change over time, check back every Friday to finish your week with a visual flourish!

Landsat image of the Eye of the Sahara in Mauritania

The EarthView: Eye of the Sahara


Near the western edge of the Sahara Desert is a feature that resembles a large eye when viewed from space. The Eye of the Sahara, also known as the Richat Structure or Guelb er Richat, is a symmetrical dome of eroded sedimentary and volcanic rock. The outermost rings measure approximately 40 km (25 miles) across. Persistent northeasterly winds keep much of the dome free from sand, exposing the various layers of rock. The circular feature was initially interpreted to be an asteroid impact structure, but most scientists have now concluded that it was caused by geologic uplift.

This Landsat mosaic of four different scenes shows the geologic feature in false color. By blending visible and infrared wavelengths (bands), scientists can enhance the visibility of the various rock layers in contrast to the surrounding sand (yellow to white).

The Eye of the Sahara is featured along with many other selected images in the USGS Earth as Art series:

Hungry for some science, but you don’t have time for a full-course research plate? Then check out USGS Science Snippets, our snack-sized science series that focuses on the fun, weird, and fascinating stories of USGS science.