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|"QUANTUM SHOT" #271 |
Link - article by Avi Abrams
Spectacular formation remains a puzzle
The Richat Structure, Oudane, Mauritania, is not really a "structure" per se, but a huge circular formation (50 km in diameter - 30 miles) that somewhat resembles a human eye when looked upon from space. Originally thought to be a crater, this volcanic dome is most likely a product of erosion, an ancient geological artifact in the middle of featureless Maur Adrar desert, in Africa's Western Sahara. The earliest space missions used it as a landmark, the adventurous 4x4 enthusiasts today consider it to be their playground, and scientists are still debating its origin.
The Google Maps coordinates are 21.124217, -11.395569 - If you unzoom, you can distinctly see the eye:
Somewhere on the internet, there is a Photoshopped version of this eye, turning it into an "Optimus Prime"-like face:
(image credit: Lebovski)
The meteorite impact theory (generally agreed upon today) can not explain the flatness of the "crater"'s floor, so the next most accepted explanation is the erosion of the initial volcanic dome, which gradually peeled away original layers of rock, creating the present onion-like form.
This image was taken by an Expedition 15 crew member on the International Space Station:
(image via Space.com)
The following picture must have simulated colors, and it looks almost like a fantastic lake:
(image credit: United States Geological Survey - USGS)
"Paleozoic quartzites form the resistant beds outlining the structure." (GSA Journals). Here is a couple of other simulated images to illustrate that:
The topographical 3-D relief image, found on Wikipedia, shows "Le Guelb ri Richat" with the most detail (The view is exaggerated six times vertically, and the colors are slightly enhanced):
(image via, click to enlarge)
Here is a portion of this visualization, looking like a landscape on some other planet:
(image credit: NASA/JPL/NIMA, via)
Johnnie Shannon did some image-enhancing magic on original satellite image, clearly showing the eroded circular anticline (structural dome) of layered sedimentary rocks:
(image credit: Johnnie Shannon)
... and Christoph Hormann also created a spectacular view, using various modeling software:
(image credit: Christoph Hormann, all rights reserved, see more on his site)
Barren landscape is a welcome challenge to 4x4 enthusiasts
You might think that this area is so remote and hostile that hardly anyone goes to all the trouble to visit there. You would be quite wrong. There are companies offering organized tours, especially of the off-roading variety. Manfred Schweda from This Fab Trek shares some good imagery of such journeys:
(images credit: Manfred Schweda)
Surprisingly, there is also a hotel smack in the middle of the Richat Structure. It's nothing luxurious, but offers adequate accommodations to tired tourists and "Mad Max" kind of explorers:
The Longest Train in the World
The area around "the guelb" is quite interesting, as well: F'Derik, one of the biggest iron mines in the world is located about 100 miles southeast. The iron ore produced there is exported all the way to the Atlantic port of Nouadhibou, via a 419-mile (674-kilometre) railway, which is the longest non-stop railroad in the world... (no passengers allowed).
The train from Nouadhibou to Choum is the longest train in the world. Its chain of cars can be up to three kilometres long:
(images credit: Mauritania Travel Diaries)
Similar fun with the Google Maps
The Richat Structure is not the only formation that resembles some part of human anatomy. It turns out our planet has many faces, eyes, noses, ears and anything you can imagine - if you look hard enough!
To give you an idea and a taste of exploring Google satellite imagery, there is a site IntrepidEarth displaying their most unusual sightings. The following image of "Earth face with an iPod" is located in Alberta, Canada (Long/Lat: 50.01,-110.11):
(images credit: NASA/GSFC/MITI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team)
Article by Avi Abrams, Dark Roasted Blend.
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