In the barren Sahara Desert, a geological phenomenon occurs that leaves scientists scratching their heads. Known as the Eye of the Desert or the Richat Structure, this mysterious, circular structure is more than 50 kilometers in diameter and attracts the attention of those who see it from space. The story behind this crater goes back billions of years, and remains a mystery that intrigues geologists around the world.
Discover the story of the mysterious Eye of the Sahara in Africa
Initially, it was thought that the Eye of the Desert was the result of a meteorite collision, an impact that would have created a crater in the middle of the desert. However, in-depth studies revealed that the truth about this formation dates back to the end of the Proterozoic era, that is, about one billion and 542 million years ago. During this period, oxygen accumulated in the lithosphere, creating materials such as silicon and iron, creating a never-before-seen geological dome, called the domed anticline.
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Over the centuries, different rates of erosion between different types of rocks in the exposed upper dome have created circular hills, known as questas (cliffs), NASA explains.
In 2022, the Rishat Temple was recognized as a Geological Heritage Site by the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS). This honor highlights the unique importance of Ain Al Sahara in the global geological panorama and places it among the top 100 geological heritage sites in the world.
Research published in Journal of African Earth SciencesIt indicates that the breakup of the supercontinent Pangea was an important factor in the formation of the Sahara Eye. Pre-existing anisotropies allowed asthenosphere and subcontinental amalgamations, with alkaline and tholeiitic magmas within the same igneous complex.
Theories that may reveal the origin of the Desert Eye
Over the years, several theories have emerged to explain the Eye of the Desert. From the possibility of a crater being the result of a meteorite impact to the work of extraterrestrial beings, the mystery has increased. However, recent studies have shed new light on the origin of the eye.
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Researchers from the University of Oxford, in a 2023 publication in the journal Nature Geoscience, determined that the structure was formed due to volcanic activity. The invasion of magma, which occurred more than 100 million years ago, entered the Earth's crust and, after solidifying, formed the dome we see today. Erosion over time has led to the formation of the rings, and has shown that the structure is more complex than previously imagined.
Despite its grandeur, Ain al-Sahara is still little visited by tourists. Given that the best way to observe the structure is from space, some adventurers prefer to fly over the area in airplanes or hot air balloons. Or for the bravest there is a hotel built in the area.
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